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Brig.-Gen. R. Brutinel, C.B., C.M.G.. D.S.O. 

Commanding Canadian Machine Gun Corps, C. E. F. 

Advisor Extraordinaire Canadian M. G. Corps. Association 




ILLUSTRATIONS 

Page 

Brig.-Gen. R. Brutinel, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O. Frontispiece 

Machine Gun Section, Ottawa, 1901 54 

Staff of C. M. G. Depot, Seaford, 1918 62 

Headquarters 4th Battalion, C. M. G. C. 69 

Machine Guns at Paschendaele - 83 
Sketch: Canadian Operations at Paschendaele, 

October 26th to November 10th, 1917 97 

Christmas Card, 4th Battalion, C. M. G. C., France, 1917-18 102 

Officers 2nd Battalion, C. M. G. C. 114 

Officers 3rd Battalion, C. M. G. C. 121 

Cleaning 1 Armoured Cars, Canadian Motor M. G. Brigade 124 

Officers 1st Canadian Motor M. G. Brigade 130 

Officers 2nd Canadian Motor M. G. Brigade 136 

Sketch: Canadian Corps Operations, Aug. 8th to 17th, 1918 151 
Sketch: Canadian Corps Operations, Aug. 26th to Oct. llth, 1918 - 162 

Colours of 1st Battalion, C. M. G. C. 173 

Barrage Map "A," R. A. Canadian Corps 180 

Composite Battery, 1st Battalion, C. M. G. C., at Leige 201 

C. M. G. C. Establishment, November llth, 1918 204 

Executive C. M. G. C. Association, 1937 217 





The Canadian 
"EMMA GEES" 




A History of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps 

By 

LT.-COL. C. S. GRAFTON 

Illustrated with Reproductions front Official 
Photographs and Maps 



Published by 

The Canadian Machine Gun Corps Association 

1938 



Hunter Printing Company, London, Ont. 




the (Officers anb JHen of the (Eaiiabian 

> *_ > 

rl|me dim Corps faljo fell in 
prance, tl]ts ^tstory ts bebtcateb 




CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTORY. 

CHAPTER II. CAVALCADE 1914-15-16. 

CHAPTER III. BATTLE OF VIMY AND HILL 70. 

CHAPTER IV. BATTLE OF PASSCHENDALE. 

CHAPTER V. TENSE INTERLUDE. 

CHAPTER VI, THE MOTORS OFF INTO THE BLUE. 

CHAPTER VII. - BATTLE OF AMIENS. 

CHAPTER VIII. - BREAKING THE DROCOURT QUEANT LINE. 

CHAPTER IX. CANAL DU NORD, THEN CAMBRIA. 

CHAPTER X. To MONS AND APRES LE GUERRE. 



PREFACE 

During the Canadian occupation of Bonn, Germany, a Canadian Machine 
Gun Corps Historical Section was established, in charge of Major Harry Logan, 
M.C. Capt. Mark Levey was added and ivith a staff of three or four undertook 
the task of gathering the necessary data. Moving with Corps Headquarters, the 
section finally crossed to England and then eventually found itself in Ottawa. 
Major Logan shortly after resumed his civil occupation and the work was carried 
on by Capt. Levey until February, 1920. The result of these labors found their 
way into typewritten script, which, in three volumes, was bound and distributed 
to six persons. Afterwards another set was subscribed for by other Machine 
Gunners interested and again only a few copies were available. 

A great many Machine Gunners who continued on in the militia after the 
war were not aware of the existence of this history, but as the discussion of the 
necessity of getting a history written arose from time to time at Canadian M. G. 
Association meetings, only to be tabled, it was more widely recognized that the 
History already gathered would be the basis of any further ivork undertaken. 

Upon the disbandment of the C. M. G. C. in 1936, upon reorganization of the 
Canadian Militia, it seemed more urgent than ever that something regarding a 
History should be done. 

When the writer first looked over the material collected (it dealt only with 
battles from Vimy Ridge, where the C. M. G. C. was first authorized) it was 
recognized that, because of its length, reprinting would run to a sum totally out 
of reach of available financial resources. The writer, however, believed that the 
History as it existed could be condensed, given different continuity and narrative 
structure and as a History could be given abridged form. He therefore volun 
teered to undertake the task. 

Later it seemed only proper that it should be written with a vieiv to having 
some value to a new generation of machine gunners and so it was necessary to 
provide a high-lighted background of Machine Gun History. 

"The Book of the Machine Gun," by Major F. V. Long staff and Capt. A. H. 
Atteridge, was taken, with the kind permission of the holder of the copyright, 
Major Longstaff, as the basis of the Introductory Chapter. Many machine gun 
ners of the Great War era were ignorant of the fact that quite an extensive 
library on machine gunnery of all nations had been written prior to 1914. "The 
Book of the Machine Gun" may have been followed by many later works, but its 
general coverage of the Machine Gun s historical background up until 1917, when 
it was published, still seemed to be adequate today and the tactical principles 
advocated still as sound as they proved to be during the Great War. 

The writer is also indebted to the Historical Section, Department of National 
Defence, for aid in filling in data from M. G. Company reports dating from the 
formation of these units doivn to the Battles of the Somme and including some 
reports of Hill 70, which latter were missing in the original History. 

He recognizes that from a purely History point of view the book will be 
considered inadequate, but to follow the fortunes, in minute detail, of at least 
16 Infantry M. G. Companies from their Battalion Section beginnings and on 
into their absorption into M. G. Battalions would have required many volumes. 
Briefly, it seemed more vital that some record should exist, no matter how inade 
quate, than that the C. M. G. C. should disappear without a trace. 

It is hoped, therefore, that this History will be judged by the limitations of 
finances and space imposed and that if the historical could not be preserved in 
full detail at least some flavor of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps, its triumphs 
and vicissitudes, has been retained for those who served and that future machine 
gunners may derive some value from this account of the Corps phenomenal 
growth during the war and from incidents in battle, illustrative of the role of 
the Emma Gees. 

July 15th, 1938. 

C. S. G. 

Timmins, Ont. 



INTRODUCTORY 



CHAPTER I. 

HP HE genesis of all modern armament is to be found in the simple 
-^- weapons of antiquity. The siege artillery which shattered the 
Belgian fortresses barring the immense thrust into Northern France 
by the German hordes in the Great War was the modern version of 
the catapult which hurled its huge rocks to crash the thick walls of 
fortified and beleaguered cities of ancient times. 

The sling shot of Biblical days was the simple forerunner of the 
arrow, then the musket and finally the rifle. 

And it would be perfectly logical to presume that the first of 
History s Davids to put two or more stones in his sling shot instead 
of the orthodox one, touched off that inventive spark that was to 
sputter, flame up, die down and then flame up again and at long last, 
produce the modern machine gun. 

You may safely presume also that this innovation caused no end 
of heated discussion around the tribal fires, if and when they were 
got going. Indubitably, it would be pointed out that while the 
intended victim might be made a trifle busier dodging three stones 
instead of one, the firer had undoubtedly sacrificed something in the 
way of accuracy. And if there happened to be a tribal story-teller 
handy, there also was the beginning of military history. 

The realms of conjecture and supposition may be left behind at 
this point. There is historical confirmation of the idea of "multiple 
missiles." 

William, Duke of Normandy, threw consternation into the ranks 
of the sturdy Saxons of our own King Harold and arrows in "sheaves 
of ten" from a "multiple bow" at the Battle of Hastings. The arrows 
were discharged simultaneously. The breezes and range saw to it 
that they were scattered wide enough. It was the first historical bid 
for a superiority of "fire power" and a saving in man power --the 
principles of which have actuated the whole evolution of tactical 
handling of improved armaments right down to this very day. 

The evolution of the musket and rifle from its bow and arrow 
origins carried through a lot of centuries. And the "multiple missile" 
principle was never far behind. Here and there it caught right up. 
Here and there it lagged --maybe a century behind. 

The "multiple bow" of the Normans was an adaptation of the 
bow and arrow. 



10 THE CANAD r AN "EMMA GEES" 

When gunpowder became a prope^ant of missiles, the machine 
gun princir e followe-" ^i o i* heeK 

Thus, you have *he earlies o p im hine guns appearing in the 
15th century. They wer kn - n a" "Ri^ardequins" or "orgues" -or 
more plainly organ gu^ he^e were a }r of "stops" in their shatter 
ing recitals. T t is to v ;e a tv -e " +h n + it was almost as dangerous 
being the organist a? it was the target. 

They are mentione 7 in fl " histo-ie- of sieges in the 15th and 
16th centuries and were r-^u^ of muske^ barrels attached to a frame 
and, ingeniously enough, set rff b TT a mp^h-lock arrangement so that 
each barrel was fired i^ -"cce-skr 1 rather than in one loud bang. 

The first recorded ap-oeararce of the "revolver" principle came 
in this same 15th ce^tur^ -ev-M-g H tt, however, did not, owing 
to the lack of precision in * orr g Chambers, fit closely enough to the 
end of the barrel and the "esu v ing esca^ of gas quickly wore away 
the barrel and made them "apt- snd dangerous weapons to 

handle. 

However, progress, you may note, was slowly grinding on. 

In the 10th century the arrows, you will recall f ook flight 
simultaneously. Five centuries later, groups of muskets were being 
fired in succession. 

There seems to have ! een ^ ^rolongerl "stoppage" in the evolution 
of the machine gun from the 16th century until well on into the 18th. 

On May 15th, 1718, there was patented by one James Puckle, in 
London, a revolving gun. As described in the patent application, this 
was "a portable Gun or Machine called a Defence, that discharges soe 
often and soe many Bullets and can be soe Quickly Loaden as renders 
it next to Impossible to Carry any Ship by Boarding." 

It was also mentioned as another quaint feature of the gun that 
it was adapted for "shooting square Bulletts against the Turks and 
round Bulletts against Christians." 

The Puckle revolving gun, mounted on a tripod of surprisingly 
advanced design, in appearance is said to have strongly resembled 
the Gatling. 

Before the American Civil War broke out in 1861, there had been 
a "Requa battery" added to the national armament. It was used in 
one of the forts at Charleston. It was a multiple barrel weapon with 
a swinging breech to which was attached a strip of special cartridges, 
containing both bullet and powder. A hole in the end of each cartridge 
coincided with a vent in the breech block and these successive vents 
were connected by a channel filled with black powder. A single per 
cussion cap was used to detonate the priming charge and the barrels 
were thus discharged in succession and with fair rapidity. 

It earned little official notice, but it may have had something to 



INTRODUCTORY 11 

do with inspiring Dr. R. J. Gatling of Chicago, for it was in the next 
year 1862 that the first of all modern machine guns was invented. 
It, too, was non-automatic. 

It consisted of six rifle barrels arranged at equal distances around 
a shaft which revolved in front of six breech mechanisms, the whole 
being actuated by a crank on the right side. It was fed from a hopper 
on top by the force of gravity. In one complete revolution of the 
barrels around the shaft it fired 10 shots. It was entirely manually 
operated. It offered continuous fire. With industrious crank-turning 
it was claimed that 1,200 rounds per minute could be reeled off. 

The Gatling was brought out just in time for a few to be used 
during the Civil War. 

And, remarkably enough, they were often operated by employees 
of the Gatling Gun Company under real conditions of warfare. 

In the history of arms-selling, most of the "Salesmen of Death" 
have made mighty sure that they were well out of earshot when 
their merchandise was belching forth destruction. 

A 10-round salvo from all six barrels seems indicated for these 
Gatling salesmen. 

The Catling s effect on the Civil War produced no immediate 
echoes in the brooding corridors of Europe s war offices. 

Next came, in the mechanical succession of the machine gun, the 
Montigny mitrailleuse, which probably had more far-reaching effects 
on machine gunnery than its mechanical improvements or departures 
warranted. 

In 1851, M. Montigny, a Belgian engineer, was offered the plans 
and drawings of a machine gun invention by a compatriot, Captain 
Fafschamps. 

Almost 20 years later, in 1869, the gun, with various improve 
ments, including the adoption of metallic cartridges, was being 
secretly manufactured in Meudon. On the eve of the outbreak of the 
Franco-Prussian War the mitrailleuse was officially introduced into 
the French Army. 

"Mitraille" is the word for grape-shot and the new word "mitrail 
leuse," was immediately adopted. 

Mechanically, it provided no new principles. Thirty-seven rifled 
barrels were encased in a wrought-iron tube, looking much like a field 
gun, even to the mounting. It had a swinging breech-block, allowing 
for the insertion of a plate of 37 cartridges. The breech-block was 
then oiosed and the gun fired, by the operation of a crank handle. 

One complete revolution of this crank handle, in one second, would 
discharge all 37 barrels. Twelve plates per minute could be fired, 
thus popping off 444 rounds which was claimed as a record despite 



12 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

assertions made on behalf of other types of machine guns then in 
use. It could fire single shots as well. 

Now two other types of rifle-calibre machine guns were coming 
into use. They reverted to the old types of "organ" guns. The first 
of these was the Nordenfeldt, an invention of a Swedish engineer, 
Palmcrantz. The Gardner followed the Nordenfeldt. The former 
started with five barrels in 1885, but with improved loading mechan 
ism was ultimately reduced to two. 

Up to now all types of guns had been manually operated. 

In very short order, however, Mr. (later Sir) Hiram Maxim, an 
American electrical engineer, was to appear on the scene. In 1883 
he applied for the first of a series of patents which were to produce 
the first automatic a weapon which, once started, would go on 
reloading and firing itself as long as pressure was maintained on the 
firing button and there was ammunition being fed it. 

It is claimed for the Maxim that it is one of the most remarkable 
inventions ever made, if for no other reason than that the first gun 
produced was practically perfect and did everything claimed for it. 
There have been mechanical modifications of the Maxim principles, 
but in all essentials there have been no real improvements needed. 

The first Maxim gun fired between 600 and 700 rounds per 
minute. 

Hiram Maxim did not start out to be a gun maker. He had been 
a successful inventor and was in Europe as the agent of an American 
electrical concern in the pioneer days of electric lighting. In "My 
Life," his autobiography, published in 1915, Sir Hiram recounts a 
seemingly trivial conversation which led him to explore the field of 
machine gun making. 

Wrote Sir Hiram : 

"In 1881 I visited the Electrical Exhibition in Paris and was made 
a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour on account of some electrical and 
chemical work that I had done ; and about a year later I was in Vienna, 
where I met an American Jew, whom I had known in the States. He 
said : Hang your chemistry and electricity. If you wish to make a 
pile of money, invent something that will enable these Europeans to 
cut each other s throats with greater facility. 

"This made me think of the time when I was only about fourteen 
years of age and was making drawings for my father of a hand 
worked machine gun. I also thought of the powerful kick I got the 
first time I fired a U. S. military rifle. On my return to Paris I made 
a very highly finished drawing of an automatic rifle. Happening to 
meet a Scotchman in Paris, whom I had known in the States, I showed 
him my drawings. He invited me to come to London. I did so and 
shortly after I started an experimental shop at 57 Hatton Garden." 



INTRODUCTORY 13 

There were two patents dated in 1885 which encompassed the 
form which the Maxim principle and all its modifications was to take. 

It was in 1885, too, that the gun was shown at the Inventions 
Exhibition at South Kensington and that year demonstrations before 
distinguished visitors, and finally Government trials, resulted in con 
tracts for the manufacture of the gun at the Vickers works in 
Crayford, Kent. 

Sir Hiram tells of a gun he invented on request of Lord Wolseley 
a gun throwing a long-range projectile which would penetrate 
barricades and even light armor but yet would stop a rush as 
effectively as a small gun. 

The bore was three-quarters on an inch thick. The projectile 
was made up of lead segments around a steel core, but the real touch 
of genius came when the gun was to be converted into a short-range 
blunderbus. An ingenious device of four cutters bit into the lead 
segments enough to allow the projectiles to fly apart and act very 
much like buck-shot out of a super shotgun. The gun was never used, 
but out of it came the Pom Pom, a large calibre Maxim gun throwing 
an explosive shell weighing a little more than a pound. 

The Hotchkiss, later the machine gun adopted by the French 
army, followed close on the Maxim trail, as did other forms of auto 
matic guns such as the Colt, Browning, Lewis, Schwarlose (Austrian) 
and the many other adaptations. 

In 1905 Capt. von Braun, a well-known German machine gun 
authority, in his book "Das Maxim Maschinengewehr," gives the 
following statistics of the armies and fleets using the various machine 
gun systems: 

System Armies Fleets 

Maxim 19 21 

Hotchkiss 4 2 

Other systems 5 1 

EVOLUTION OF M. G. TACTICS 

Two comparatively modern wars, 34 years apart, were to pro 
foundly affect the future of machine guns. 

The first was the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The conclusions, 
largely based on a false premise, drawn from the introduction of the 
mitrailleuse into that sweeping victory for German arms, were to 
discredit the machine gun and retard the evolution of its tactics for 
decades. 

The other war, the Russo-Japanese, which opened in 1904, 
brought the machine gun a general and startling recognition among 
the observers of the great and little nations attached to both armies. 



14 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

There was still much groping to be done, however, as the evolution 
of machine gun tactics ground slowly, but surely, on. 

In 1869, as the Montigny mitrailleuse was about to be included 
in the French armament on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War, great 
secrecy surrounded the actual manufacture of the gun at the Meudon 
arsenal. Only the officers and men who worked on it were allowed 
to see or even handle the weapon. Tarpaulins covered the bulky 
mystery guns as, on mobilization, they were moved up to the front. 

The mystery touch was maintained even among the troops at 
the front though the French press for some time had been painting 
fearsome descriptions of the havoc that this new and terrible weapon 
was going to perform as it mowed down whole battalions of Germans 
in a matter of mere minutes. 

As a matter of fact all this mystery was quite farcical. A British 
officer, Major Fosbery, had in 1869 included a description of the gun 
in an article he had contributed to the Royal United Institute s journal 
on "Mitrailleuses and Their Place in the Wars of the Future." Major 
Fosberry, while superintending some of its construction, had sug 
gested improvements which had been carried out in the earlier 
manufacture of the gun in Belgium. Other nations knew most of the 
details of its construction. 

Therefore it was no surprise to the Germans. 

It might well have been a devastating surprise in effect had 
the French general staff pursued intelligent tactics as an accompani 
ment to the introduction of the new weapon. 

When the French armies were hastily mobilized for the war the 
mitrailleuse immediately displaced a battery in the three-battery 
group organization of their artillery. Ten mitrailleuses made up this 
battery. 

The extreme range of the mitrailleuse was a little over 1,000 
yards just that of their infantry rifle, the Chassepot. 

Why the French should have substituted the rifle-like fire power 
of the mitrailleuse for a third of their artillery power is best explained 
by the fact that the tactical use of new rifled field guns and their 
longer ranges was little understood. The French had used them 
11 years before against the Italians. But they were still thinking in 
terms of the smooth bore field pieces, still in use in many European 
armies. The tactics of the time still indicated that the artillery should 
go into action on a line with the infantry. 

So what seems like incredible folly and proved so had some 
justification. 

The application of wrong tactical principles to an improved 
weapon was not new in 1870 nor, perhaps, will it be avoided in 1970. 

The British had made a similar error when the Enfield replaced 



INTRODUCTORY 15 

the old Brown Bess in the Crimean War. Instead of pouring a wither 
ing fire into the dense colum 1 " - of advancing Russians with the longer 
Enfield range, the British infantry were still thinking in terms of the 
Brown Bess range. The Enfield fire was the deadlier, but the British 
suffered needless losses in allowing the Russians to get to Brown Bess 
range. 

The baptism of the mitrailleuse came on August 2, 1870, at 
Saarbruck. The French called it a battle, but it proved to be only a 
rearguard action fought by a few hundred Prussians in widely 
extended skirmishing order against a whole French division. With 
minds aflame from vivid pictures already painted of the havoc to be 
wrought by "le infant terrible" among modern weapons, the Paris 
correspondents with one accord unsheathed their pencils and wrote 
furiously of how the new gun had mowed down the Prussians like 
corn before a sickle, mes amis and torn wide swathes through the 
densely packed advancing columns. 

It was newspaper fiction which raised, still higher, hopes which 
were to suffer a corresponding and sickening drop. 

At Wisemberg on August 4, 1870, in the mid-morning hours, 
the mitrailleuse was to have its real baptism. The artillery of the 
German llth Corps advance guard opened fire on the French position 
at the Chateau of Geisberg. Voila ! a battery of mitrailleuse galloped 
up to make a chattering reply to the Krupp guns, by which they were 
outranged by many hundreds of yards. The French battery swung 
into action on a knoll, nicely, and accommodatingly marked by three 
poplars. With such a fine ranging mark the Prussians got right on 
the target and a Prussian shell blew up one of the ammunition wagons, 
mortally wounding General Duoay. Without hope of meeting the 
German artillery range, the battery had to be quickly withdrawn. 

The lesson was not quickly assimilated and in other cases the 
same tactics were pursued with equally sad, tragic results. 

There cropped up the inevitable exceptions, however, and one 
came in the same month at Gravelotte on the 18th. There the French 
moved the mitrailleuses up and placed them in small groups in their 
infantry firing line. 

The German official history in describing the action on the French 
left at Montigny-La-Grange (an odd coincidence since the mitrailleuse 
was the Montigny) gives the mitrailleuse its first real credit mark. 
It says: 

"While the action was thus developing upon the principal line of the 
battle of the 3rd Division, three battalions of the advanced guard were 
having a partial engagement in the vicinity of Chautreune. Two companies 
of the 36th Regiment had been led from Chautreune to the slope which 
rises from the East, but, as in the wood, they did not succeed in pushing 
farther forward, for the open ground was entirely under the fire of the 
French infantry posted in the same wood and in the cluster of trees west 



16 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

of La Folie and Montigny-le-Grange. From this point, notably, a battery 
of mitrailleuses swept the border north of the cluster of trees, and another 
battery from the south angle of this cluster held under its fire the clearing 
which separates it from the Bois des Genivaux. In a short time General 
von Blumenthal saw the impossibility of an attack upon Le Folie. The 
position of the 36th Regiment on the open ground afforded it very little 
shelter against the enemy s musketry and mitrailleuses, so its losses 
gradually reached a very high figure while the French generally kept 
themselves defiladed or outside the action of the needle gun." 

In the same battle and in the French centre at Bois de la Cusse 
in front of Amarivillers, the mitrailleuse was used with the infantry 
and a battery coming into action at the right moment led to the 
capture of the only German guns lost during the war. The Germans 
had made a few errors of calculation to present this opportunity for 
the mitrailleuse, for the German guns had been pushed forward into 
dangerous range of the French line, believing this line did not extend 
to the north of Amanvillers. 

The German account of the affair is : 

"At this moment the artillery in position on the ridge to the south 
the Bois de la Cusse was placed in extremely critical situation. A 
battery of mitrailleuses had debouched in front of d Amanvillers and fired 
directly and with excellent range upon the extreme left of the line of 
Prussian artillery. This point was occupied by the fourth heavy battery 
already seriously injured by musketry. In a few moments the fire of the 
mitrailleuses so decimated it that several officers, five chiefs of pieces and 
forty men were disabled and nearly all the horses were killed or wounded 
Such was the situation when, suddenly, large detachments of the enemy s 
infantry rose from a ravine in front of the ridge and threw themselves 
upon the defenceless battery. Its chiefs, already wounded, succeeded with 
a few horses still untouched and after desperate efforts in getting two 
pieces back to the border of the wood, but the rest of the pieces fell into 
the enemy s possession." 

Practically half of the machine gun batteries of the French were 
captured at Sedan the other half were beleaguered in Metz with 
Bazaine s army. 

French faith in the mitrailleuse persisted to the extent that new 
guns were manufactured in workshops hastily organized far back on 
the Loire. Guns were bought abroad, including Gatlings, but trained 
personnel was almost totally lacking. 

It is recorded that at Le Mans, January 1871, there was a very 
successful use made of the Gatlings in the defence of the plateau of 
Anvours and the crossings of the River Huisne. They were used 
intelligently, kept out of sight of the German artillery and burst with 
surprise effect on enemy infantry. They were used right in the 
trenches in the French centre. 

The Germans had used the machine gun infrequently. They 
had a type called "Feld" and a battery of these guns (four) with the 
Bavarians at Coulommieres in the Loire campaign, in a 1,000-yard 
duel with French artillery, quickly silenced their heavier adversaries 
and later helped repulse three French infantry attacks. 



INTRODUCTORY 17 

The mitrailleuse, unhappily, as the medium of so many high 
hopes came in for a great deal of undeserved opprobrium from even 
the French themselves, as a result of the general debacle. 

Among foreign military observers, the failures of the mitrail 
leuses tended almost to obscure its demonstrated possibilities and 
potentialities when used with some intelligence and within limits 
which should have been obvious from the outset, it would seem. 

The mitrailleuses were not quite cast into the outer darkness. It 
was granted to be a possibly useful weapon within very narrow 
limits, such as the defence of narrow passes and defiles and the flank 
ing of fortifications. Naval authorities, concerned with power effect 
and having no wide range of tactical problems to consider, saw its 
possibilities as a weapon for the fighting tops of warships; in its 
larger calibres as an anti-torpedo boat armament and equipment for 
small armed river craft and landing parties. 

After 1870, Russia was the first European nation to extensively 
add machine guns to its armament. Russia had, in fact, made a large 
purchase in 1871 of Catlings. The Catling continued to hold sway. 
Japan was among the many nations which became good customers. 

Innumerable wars, now rated as minor, of the British were to 
keep the machine gun making a few converts. Lord Chalemsford, 
after the Zulu War of 1879, was to confirm their good execution 
against wild frontal charges of the Zulus. He was to emphasize their 
value in small, isolated posts against numerical odds. 

He relates incidents in which the Catlings figured at Ekowe and 
again at Ulundi, the first in defence of a laager and the other in the 
centre of a British square. They jammed for one thing. For a short 
time they committed great execution. 

He concludes: 

"The Catlings, however, required too much care in firing and could not 
be entrusted to any but skilled manipulators. If a machine gun can be 
invented that may safely be entrusted to infantry soldiers to work and 
could be fired very much as one grinds an organ, I am satisfied of its great 
value. They should, however, in my opinion, not be attached to artillery, 
but should be considered as essentially an infantry weapon and worked by 
infantry soldiers. So utilized, they might, I feel sure, be used not only 
in defence but in covering the last stage of an infantry attack upon a 
position where the troops have ceased firing and are endeavoring to get 
home with the bayonet." 

Thus 10 years after the Franco-Prussian War machine guns were 
still hampered by the notion that it was a new type of field gun. 

In the Soudan and the Burmese War the machine gun earned 
modest bits of praise. 

The Maxim gun was first used by the British troops on the 
North-West frontier of India. In 1895 they were to do very useful 
work in the march to the relief of Chitral against the rushes of the 
Chazis at the Malakand Pass. 



18 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

The general trend of British military opinion was to consign the 
machine gun to work in its colonial outposts, where its magical quali 
ties in the eyes of uncivilized tribes humorously outweighed any 
serious consideration it might merit in more serious situations. 

The machine gun s next demonstration in battle between ranking 
powers came in the Spanish-American War of 1898. There was a 
battery of four Gatling guns with General Shafter s army in Cuba, 
hastily improvised after the American landing. At the Battle of 
Santiago these guns were sent into the firing line and brought a hail 
of bullets to bear on the Spaniards entrenched on the crest of San 
Juan Hill. Three guns fired 6,000 rounds and Lieut. Parker, who 
commanded the battery, claims that it was this fire that made possible 
the successful assault on the hill. 

Lieut. Parker s "Tactical Organization and Uses of Machine Guns 
in the Field," issued in 1889, even if based on very slight actual 
experience, was reinforced by an apparently broad knowledge of the 
world s growing literature on the subject of machine gunnery. 

Aside from his prophetic tactical vision, which afterwards was 
to become uncannily true in many details, he gave some thought to 
the human element the type of soldier he thought should man the 
machine guns of the future. 

In part he writes: 

"The machine gun man must be hot-blooded and dashing. He must 
have all the verve and elan of the best light cavalry, all the resisting power 
of stolid and immovable infantry. He is net to reason on abstruse 
theorems, nor approximate difficult ranges; his part is to dash into the 
hell of musketry, the storm of battle and to rule that storm by the superior 
rapidity and accuracy of his fire. The characteristics of the machine gun 
crew are therefore different from those of the artillery of the future, and 
it may be added, the artillery of the present. . . . The experience of the 
battlefield has demonstrated that a greater degree of independent action 
pertains to the machine guns than is the case with the artillery." 

The South African War proved little for or against machine 
guns. The arm was used merely as a supplement to infantry and 
cavalry. Modern machine gunnery would perhaps in fact definitely 
would have made a great deal of the shifty targets the well- 
concealed Boer burghers offered. There was a lack of tactical knowl 
edge on the part of the British, a low standard of training in personnel, 
though here and there exceptional, keen officers were able to do well 
with their guns. If anything, the machine gun may be considered to 
have lost further prestige on the veldt. 

The sporadic bursts of Gatling fire were drowned out by the 
crackle of musketry fire in the South African scene. 

The echo had hardly died away, however, when there came the 
real dawn for machine gunnery. 

What had happened in two decades before the opening of the 



INTRODUCTORY 19 

Russian-Japanese War had merely been a sort of false dawn, break 
ing- into the murk which spread over the evolution of machine gun 
tactics after Sedan. 

The hostilities in the Far East, opened by Japan without formal 
declaration of war, found machine guns in considerable numbers on 
both sides. The Russians had the Maxim; the Japs were using the 
Hotchkiss. The Russians used eight-gun batteries, while the Japs 
used six, but the latter, in addition, detailed two-gun sections to the 
infantry- 

Exceptionally heavy losses to the Czar s machine gunners at the 
Battle of the Yalu led the Russians to substitute a tripod for the 
field gun mounting of their batteries. Thereafter, within the limita 
tions of their own generalship and the steady pressure of circum 
stances that exerted themselves in a losing campaign, the Russians 
were to contribute to this nursery of modern machine gun tactics 
almost as valuable material as the alert Japanese. 

The hawk-eyed observers of the Great Powers were with both 
forces. On the part of most of them, especially the German, the 
machine gun received as searching analysis as any arm. 

General Sir Ian Hamilton, following the campaign, published 
his "Staff Officer s Scrap-book During the Russo-Japanese War" in 
two volumes. 

These books, valuable as they were, and are, with regard to the 
development of artillery and infantry fire, made little mention of 
machine guns. Since a Japanese officer claimed that little general 
use of the machine gun was made before the Battle of Sha-Ho, the 
one machine gun incident described by Sir Ian must have struck him 
as merely a dramatic and isolated episode, though it was to be 
repeated with valuable variations many, many times later. 

Sir Ian wrote: 

"On October 9th and 10th 1,500 Cossacks, with their battery of horse 
artillery, attempted nothing decisive but hung 1 about between Penchiho 
and Chaotao as if waiting for the fall of the former place. On the llth 
Prince Kanin with the 2nd Cavalry Brigade and six Hotchkiss machine 
guns arrived at Chaotao and thus anticipated the Cossacks in making a 
raid, which everyone here has consistently assumed they must make. . . . 
Today (October 12th) at 3 a.m. Prince Kanin marched on Penchiho. At 
Senkin Pass he had a skirmish and drove the Cossacks back northward. 
As I had already noted, the Russians in their attack on Penchiho had been 
trying to envelop the place, and their extreme left had actually worked 
around along the river Tai-Tsu, due south of the defence line. Thus on 
the extreme right the defenders were thrown back like the letter S along 
the tops of the mountains, whose slopes ran down into the river, whilst 
the Russians, with their backs to the river and their faces to the north, 
were half way up the slope, still endeavoring to effect a lodgement on the 
crest line. After the skirmish of Senkin Pass, the Cossacks fell back as 
far as the Tai-tsu-ho, where they still interposed between the advancing 
Japanese cavalry brigade and their own infantry, who on the northern 
bank were busily engaged with the defenders of Penchiho. On the nearer 



20 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

approach of Prince Kanin, however, the Cossacks shifted their position 
eastwards, still covering their unconscious infantry so as to forbid the 
Japanese cavalry from making any attempt to cross the Tai-tsu-ho, but 
leaving it open for them to occupy some high ground on the southern 
bank which was in effective rifle range of the Russian camp, which was on 
the other side of the river. 

"Prince Kanin is not the sort of man who would miss good chances, 
and certainly on this occasion he seems to have unhesitatingly seized the 
ripe gift offered him by fortune. Stealthily manoeuvring his six machine 
guns into position on a high and broken spur which ran down to the 
water s edge, he suddenly opened a hellish rain of bullets upon the Russian 
battalions, who, at half past eleven o clock, were comfortably eating their 
dinners. In less than one minute hundreds of these poor fellows were 
killed, and the rest were flying eastwards in disorder. Next moment the 
Hotchkisses were switched on the Russian firing line, who, with their 
backs to the river and their attention concentrated on Penchiho, were 
fighting in trenches about half way up the slope of the mountain. These, 
before they could realize what had happened, found themselves being 
pelted with bullets from the rear. No troops could stand such treatment 
for long and in less than no time the two brigades of Russians which had 
formed the extreme left of Stackleberg s attack, were in full retreat. 
Altogether the six machine guns had accounted for, according to the first 
dispatch, 1,000; according to the second, 1,300 Russians." 

The effect of the Manchurian campaign was to open a whole new 
field of tactics to the machine gun, and of all the nations, Germany 
was the first to realize it and to reap the most valuable harvest. 

Practically every phase of later tactics and even fire direction 
and control had their foundation in Manchuria. And no role was 
more emphasized than the value of the machine gun in the offensive. 
In the last stage of the Battle of Mukden, it has been pointed out, no 
less than four batteries were used to beat down the fire of a Russian 
detachment holding the buildings and enclosures of a Chinese farm 
and under this 24-gun storm the garrison hastily abandoned the 
position. It was the climax to a growing tendency to the use of 
massed machine guns. 

There in that incident might have been the cradle of machine 
gun barrage fire, to come later much later. 

The general effect of the war in the Far East was an immense 
stimulation of thought directed to machine gun and a vast output 
of literature and resulting study, out of which tactical doctrines 
began to be formulated in most armies. 

Perhaps reports drifting back from the Manchurian battlefields 
on machine guns interested no German more than the Kaiser himself. 
Soon after Sir Hiram Maxim invented his gun the Kaiser, then Crown 
Prince, saw it in Berlin. His immediate enthusiasm, temporarily at 
least, found itself cooled off against the cold, implacable conviction 
of the German General Staff that the machine gun was useless for a 
European war. They were sticking stolidly to the post-war convictions 
of 1870. In 1887 at Queen Victoria s Jubilee, accompanied by a group 
of German cavalry officers, Crown Prinz Wilhem paid a visit to the 



INTRODUCTORY 21 

10th Hussars at Hounslow and so intrigued was he by their machine 
gun equipment that, on his return, he ordered a gun to be sent over 
to Germany. 

Due in no small measure to the Kaiser s personal enthusiasm 
and interest for and in machine guns, Maxim batteries of four guns 
were introduced at the German manoeuvres two years later. Out 
of his own personal pocket Emperor William provided a machine gun 
of the same type for each of the Dragoon Regiments of the Guard. 

German army Field Service Regulations of 1908 indicate to what 
a high peak of specialization machine gunnery had been brought in 
the German army. 

Special regulations as late as 1912 indicate that machine gunners 
had become a sort of Corps d Elite. The Germans then possessed two 
different kinds of machine gun batteries the Machine Gun Company 
and the Detachment. Companies had been attached to each Regi 
ment, corresponding roughly to a British Brigade. A six-gun com 
pany, it was to work with the Regiment normally or be detached, in 
pairs, to battalions. 

The Detachment was non-regimental and an independent unit 
usually attached to Cavalry Brigades. Motor car detachments had 
also been formed. 

Great Britain lagged considerably behind this procession. 

In 1909, however, machine gun sections were given two guns 
instead of one. Some special courses were given at Hythe. Training 
seemed to be most haphazard. Officers on the strength of a short 
machine gun course commanded machine gun sections for a while 
and then left to take company promotion. If they were enthusiasts 
they departed to spread a leavening influence in favor of machine 
guns throughout the service. If they had failed to become enthusi 
asts, they were distinctly a negative influence. Thus the personal 
balance swayed. 

"The Machine Gun Is a Weapon of Opportunit-ee" probably sang 
the little band of British machine gun enthusiasts in a Gilbertian 
refrain. 

And they had some reason for song. 

Even if they felt that they were isolated outposts, surrounded 
by conflicting opinion, that opinion was no longer hostile. At its 
worst, it was hugely and deplorably indifferent. 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 

CHAPTER II. 

"ITT is July - and Canada in July of 1914 was a pleasant land, 
sweltering in the summer sun but bordered by two mighty oceans, 
dotted with big and little lakes to which a great part of the vacation 
ing public had repaired for the summer, had spent its two weeks or 
had annual holidays in prospect. 

True, there had been sporadic labor troubles starting in 1913; 
there was somewhat of a financial stringency being faced. It was 
being said that perhaps this sprawling young giant of a nation had 
been too optimistic in its building of vast networks of railways, in 
its rapid development of huge areas into which some of Europe s 
mightiest nations could be dropped and be lost to sight. There was 
some feeling of unrest a sense of vast change portending in the 
world. 

But Canada was on the whole a happy land, offering every 
contrast in physical features that the mind could envision and 



possessing a sense of freedom of movement for which there was 
every scope. 

On June 28th in some little city called Sarajevo, in some little- 
known province of Bosnia, the Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the 
throne of the Dual Monarchy, had been assassinated. The papers 
were full of the incident and its potentially grave implications. 

Young Canada had no thought of implications in Europe. It was 
at that moment too engrossed with the growing dance craze. It had 
just mastered the tango, which at least had grace, and then all of a 
sudden had turned to the Turkey Trot, the Bunny Hug and other 
forms of the dance which sent a shudder through Victorian matrons. 

Young Canada had just more sensibly restricted its flaring peg- 
top trousers and loosened the mirth-provoking restrictions of the 
hobble skirt. 

True, a somewhat older Canada was thinking of more serious 
things. 

A few years before Canada had refused to vote money for a navy 
to protect her own shores or a contribution to the British navy. In 
the controversy over naval matters a strong anti-Imperial trend of 
thinking was exposed. Signs had been often seen on factories, "No 
Englishman Need Apply." 

A small group of the Conservative Government then in power, 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 23 

including Sir Robert Borden, Prime Minister, and the truculent Sir 
Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia, had been warning the Dominion 
that Germany meant war. But Canada had never committed herself 
to help Britain in war. 

In June, under the energetic Hughes regime, the Canadian 
militia, made more efficient than it had been for years, had held its 
summer camps. As the militiamen left from various hamlets in their 
red coats and their white pith helmets they aroused only passing 
military ardor in the youngsters who watched them depart. Politi 
cians had made the subject of increased militia expenditures the 
medium of bitter jibes at "this war talk." By the public at large the 
Canadian militia was looked upon with mild tolerance but little martial 
pride. 

At those militia camps in June there had been perhaps some 
desultory talk of some war of the future that was sure to come, but 
it was in generally vague terms. There was more resentment over 
the fact that Sir Sam Hughes had banned the wet canteen from the 
camps than there was active dislike and distrust of Kaiser Wilhelm 
of Germany. 

There had been no talk of machine guns as the infantry after 
their first few days of camp managed to disentangle themselves from 
forming fours and the more elementary evolutions of drill preparatory 
to the mimic battle which always climaxed such camps. 

Of course they had heard of machine guns, but they excited no 
great amount of curiosity. Few officers or men had even seen a 
machine gun. The only one officially on record belonged at that time 
to the 43rd Battalion at Ottawa and officers who had taken courses 
at Ottawa had been shown the machine gun. It left them unim 
pressed, one gathers. They had enough troubles of their own with 
section and platoon drill and with musketry. Bisley each year kept 
alive the pride of Canadians in their rifle shooting. Whatever the 
Canadian militia lacked in smartness, discipline and other attributes 
of efficient military training, its shooting was of a high order. 

In fact, few members of the Canadian militia knew that the 
machine gun had already played a debatable part in Canadian history. 

In the Northwest Rebellion of 1885 both the columns of Gen. 
Middleton and Col. Otter had had Gatling guns, over which Capt. 
"Gat" Howard, an officer of the regular forces in the United States, 
exercised control. 

George G. Stanley, in his book "The Birth of Western Canada," 
in summarizing very briefly the actions at Cut Knife Creek and later 
at Batoche, mentions the Gatlings. 

Of Cut Knife Creek he says that Col. Otter s force had not suc 
ceeded in surprising the encampment of Chief Poundmaker and his 



24 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

Indians, but they did win the race to Cut Knife Hill as the Indians 
had discovered their approach at daybreak. 

"As the Mounted Police and the gunners reached the crest of 
the hill," says the account, "the Indians fell back into the coulees 
surrounding it. Taking advantage of the cover thus afforded by the 
trees and the shrubbery, they worked their way around until they 
had practically surrounded the troops, and from their concealed posi 
tions poured a rapid cross-fire upon the soldiers as they lay exposed 
upon the hill. For seven hours the fight continued. Finally, with 
his men exhausted by the all-night march and the hunger and fatigue 
of the engagement, and realizing that his position would become more 
and more untenable as darkness descended, Otter gave the order to 
retire. The line of retreat was cleared by a charge, and the column, 
under cover of fire from the cannon and the machine gun, made its 
way over the creek and up the hill on the other side." 

That was on May 2nd. 

On May 7th, Gen. Middleton s column, which had been divided 
to each bank of the South Saskatchewan River, the course of which 
was followed, began to move toward Batoche. The column was 
attended by the steamer Northcote. 

The account says that Middleton found the rebel position well 
chosen. The approach to Batoche was defended by a line of rifle pits 
or trenches along the edge of the river bank. The main position of 
the rebels extended along a range of hills running parallel to the 
river and forming the eastern slope of the valley. The slopes of 
these hills were fairly well wooded and cut by several coulees, which 
afforded excellent protection to the defenders. Independent of the 
main line of rifle pits, which extended along the brow of the hill, were 
many others placed at various points on the face of the hill, which 
might possibly become a commanding position. The pits were 
admirably constructed for their purpose. They were about three or 
four feet deep, with breastworks of logs and earth channelled for the 
rifle. The effectiveness of these fortifications is shown by the fact 
that the Metis sustained no serious casualties during the first three 
days of the engagement. 

Of the first day s battle, the account says, "only the rapid fire 
of the machine gun offered any covering for the movement of 
Middleton s force." 

Towards evening Middleton s men would retire into a zareba 
which had been formed about a mile to the rear of the battlefield. 
On the llth the troops, under cover of an artillery barrage, advanced 
to the edge of the hills, engaged in skirmishes with the rebels, suffered 
a few casualties and then retired into the fortified zareba for the 
night. 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 25 

Planning a combined movement on May 12th, Middleton had 
determined to move around the north-east of Batoche with 150 men, 
one cannon and one Catling gun. The main body of troops under 
Col. van Straubenzie was to attack from the south. Owing to a mis 
understanding, this force did not launch an assault as they were 
misled by the silence from Middleton s flank. 

"Middleton was thoroughly displeased," runs the account of the 
battle, "and the Midlanders and Grenadiers were sent to take up their 
old position on the left flank as on the previous day. But upon this 
occasion there was no holding the men. Led by Cols. Williams and 
Grassett, they advanced with a cheer, driving the enemy out of the 
first line of rifle pits. Pushing on, they dashed down the slope toward 
the village of Batoche itself, scattering the Metis before them. In 
the meantime the General rushed forward his support. The 90th, 
Boulton s scouts, the surveyors, the machine gun and the batteries 
followed the charging line and in a few moments Batoche had fallen. 
The Metis fled to the woods. Any hope of resistance was at an end." 

Although the mention of the machine guns seemed to have been 
modest enough in accounts of the several actions in which they took 
part, the weapon seems to have been made the cause of a con troversy 
which must have been waged with considerable bitterness through 
the columns of the press, judging by fragments it has been possible 
to gather up. 

"The Canadian Pictorial and Illustrated War News," picked up 
at random in a military mess library and idly thumbed through, pro 
duced the following gem of early machine gun controversy in 
Canadian military history. 

Quoting dispatches, the Pictorial News acidly commented in an 
introductory paragraph as follows: 

"The endeavor to make a hero of Lieut. Howard, the man with 
the Catling, is still being perpetrated by sections of the press in 
defiance of all the facts and of any exercise of common sense. Voila ! 
One of the latest attempts to carry on the boom first started by a 
correspondent of The Toronto Mail, who was not present at Batoche 
but for whom Howard asserts he formed a close friendship: 

"Ottawa, July 25. The Catling Gun used by Capt. Howard, late 
U. S. A., with such good effect at Batoche arrived here yesterday and 
was viewed by a great many. 

"There seems to be a very general belief, based upon reports of 
those who saw the weapon in action, that it was of little use except 
that perhaps it served to demoralize the enemy and this even it did 
not do so well as shrapnel. After Batoche, of all the killed on the 
field but one could be positively said to have been struck by the gun 
though thousands of rounds were fired. Much difficulty seems to 



26 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

have been experienced in getting the correct range, even when prac 
ticing at a fixed target, and the general conclusion come to by practi 
cal men is that the Catling is not suited to bush fighting or rough cam 
paign work, however useful it might be in repelling an attack in close 
order or in clearing a street or defile. 

"The above is a dispatch to The Montreal Witness from an 
intelligent correspondent." 

The machine gun under these explosive auspices should still have 
been a highly controversial subject in military circles of those summer 
camps of 1914 but was definitely not. Possibly the comparative 
silence of the machine gun in South Africa had had much to do with 
lack of interest in the weapon. These among Canadian militiamen 
who had delved into military history at all were too intent upon their 
own branches of the service to give much thought to the machine 
gun. 

Moving toward the end of the hot, sultry days of July, Canada 
had almost forgotten Sarajevo and the tragedy there when suddenly, 
on July 23rd, the Austrian Government presented its demands to 
little Serbia. Acceptance of the demands of the note meant that 
Serbia was to submit to vassalage under the rule of the Dual Mon 
archy. The chancellories of Europe were startled into tremendous 
exertions. 

Even Canada could not fail to see the seriousness of the situation 
as it now suddenly developed. But there was yet no thought on the 
part of Canadians generally that they would be anything other than 
horrified spectators of a European war. 

Events moved with incredible speed. 

Canadians were dazed and bewildered by the suddenness of 
it all. 

On July 28th Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. 

On August 1st Germany declared war on Russia. 

On August 3rd Germany declared war on France. 

On August 4th Germany declared war on Belgium and on that 
same day Great Britain, as a consequence, declared war on Germany. 

There were more declarations almost daily. 

On July 30th General Sir Sam Hughes, on his own initiative, had 
called an emergency meeting of the Militia Council. 

It was the first step taken by the aggressive, dynamic Hughes 
which was to see Canada, in seven short weeks, assemble an army on 
the crest of a wave of such intense patriotism as even surprised the 
Dominion itself. 

Time has done nothing to dim the story of those days when 
Canada was the first of the Dominions to offer its help to the Mother 
land nor the recollections of that tremendous driving force to which 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 27 

Sir Sam Hughes gave full reign and to which Canadians of all classes 
responded with a will. The miracle that money and determination 
combined to bring about in establishing Valcartier as a concentration 
camp, the way in which the tremendous rush of volunteers was 
handled and units eventually straightened into some semblance of a 
Division, all in feverish weeks, will always stand as a tribute to 
Canadian determination and organizing ability. 

Through the seeming chaos of the first weeks, order was slowly 
but surely manifesting itself, but in the welter of this early confusion, 
the reason why men joined the Battalion machine gun sections must 
only be surmised. One knows from fragments of information gath 
ered here and there that there was no formula of selection. In those 
early August days there was a veil of silence over what was happen 
ing in France, so there was no inspiration from the echoes of the iron 
chatter of Vickers guns as in their paucity they might be doing their 
share of the task in keeping the German hordes at bay. 

A number of reasons come to mind why men were selected or 
themselves selected machine gun duty. But they don t add up exactly. 
Then, as afterwards, all types were attracted to the machine gun 
sections and in their variation they offered flat contradictions. 

In those early days the mechanics of the gun seemed to demand 
as a prime essential that the would-be machine gunner should be 
mechanically inclined. As often as not, the exact opposite was true. 
Men who had a vast yearning that defied analysis, to be machine 
gunners oftentimes had an equally vast ignorance of anything 
mechanical and quailed at the sight of a Colt gun which an instructor 
with a few expert shakes had dissembled into a heap of what looked 
to them like a pile of ill-assorted gadgets on a rubber sheet. Hours 
of assembling practice after parade often enabled the mechanically 
inept to surmount this nightmare of machine gun parts. The rumor 
and one of the few army rumors ever to be proven true that there 
were no guard or fatigue duties connected with the machine gun 
sections no doubt helped swell the ranks of the sections. And as 
fatigues grew in infinite and irritating variety this immunity became 
an envied distinction in time. 

As early as August 20th, among the many individual offers of 
aid which had been sent to Ottawa was one from a group of promi 
nent citizens who wished to raise and equip, at their own expense, a 
machine gun unit. Sixteen machine guns, eight armoured cars, six 
trucks and four automobiles for the use of the officers was the sug 
gested equipment, and when this offer was accepted by Sir Sam 
Hughes the unit was designated as "The Automobile-Machine Gun 
Brigade No. 1." 

Major R. Brutinel was named to command this unit and by Sep- 



28 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

tember 9th had the personnel recruited. Equipment was a more 
difficult matter, but by September 21st the officer commanding had 
succeeded in obtaining guns and cars in the United States. Twenty 
instead of 16 guns had been obtained and eight trucks instead of six. 
When the unit assembled in Ottawa 20 per cent of the personnel were 
ex-soldiers, five per cent had experience in the Canadian militia and 
the remainder had no military training. 

By September 29th the unit had embarked for England, thereby 
missing participation in an event which was as dramatic and symbolic 
as the war was to see the sailing of the huge armada carrying 
Canada s first contribution of men to the Motherland, from Gaspe 
Basin on October 3rd. Thirty-three vessels made up this armada, 
the greatest fleet of transports ever to be gathered together in modern 
history and in themselves a tribute to the faith prevalent in the power 
of Britain s grey watch-dogs of the Seven Seas to see them safely 
across thousands of miles of ocean in the face of unknown dangers. 

Salisbury Plain, scene of Canada s first great concentration camp 
in England, has never been included among the battle honors of the 
1st Division, but many survivors think it should have been, for con 
ditions there were almost unbearable. 

While the weather was making it almost impossible to do any 
training at Salisbury Plain, the Princess Pats, comprised almost 
entirely of men who had seen service, moved over to Winchester in 
November 14, where they joined the 80th Brigade of the 27th 
Division. By January 4th the Pats were in the line at Dickiebush. 

Early in January the weather improved at Salisbury, where a 
serious outbreak of meningitis had added to the misery and dis 
comfort of the Canadians, and conditions became more tolerable. 

Battalion M. G. sections, one surmises, were still very vague on 
training. 

In at least one battalion a Transport officer "David Harumed" 
his section for the M. G. section. This would seem to argue a dis 
turbing lack of esprit de corps on the part of the machine gunners 
or maybe the David Harums of the Transport section knew a good 
thing when they saw it and had a persuasiveness that could not be 
denied. 

The number of machine guns per battalion had now been raised 
to four, but some of the Canadian units had as many as eight, con 
tributed by communities or individuals. 

On February 4th the King inspected the Canadian Division, 
drawn up on Salisbury Plain. 

Then, and for many, many months afterward, no drill was laid 
down for machine gun sections and parade formations were more or 
less a matter of individual taste. In this connection a Major-General 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 29 

of the highest integrity relates an anecdote in which the Motor 
Brigade figures: 

"Major Brutinel, having no laid-down formation for inspection, 
had extemporized for the event," relates the General. "Men were 
dressed by the wheels of the armored cars and generally the forma 
tion appeared very striking. However, Major Brutinel had a few 
spare parts left over, including men, and he popped the surplus men 
in the cars. His Majesty, wishing to inspect the cars more closely, 
guided his charger over to one of them and as he was about to peer 
within one of the surplus men bobbed up and looked into the some 
what startled eyes of his King. The surprise was mutual and was com 
municated to the King s charger, which reared. Fortunately the 
King had a firm seat and was in full control of the situation 
immediately." 

But even if the story lacks a trifle on the side of accuracy in 
some details, it was highly characteristic of similar predicaments in 
which M. G. formations were often to find themselves in, on and on 
into the future. 

After His Majesty s inspection, it was only a matter, everyone 
knew, of the specific day and hour of departure for France of the 
1st Canadian Division and all ranks were jubilant. The first move 
ments started on February 7th and kept up until the 12th, the troops 
embarking at Avonmouth. By the 15th all had landed at St. Nazaire. 
While the Division lay east of Hazebrouck, detachments were schooled 
in the ways of trench warfare near Armentieres. The line at Fleur- 
baix was occupied on March 3rd. After three weeks, the Division 
moved back to the Estaires area and thence to Oxelaere and Watou, 
prior to extending the front 4,400 yards on April 17th by relieving 
the French in the north-east face of the Ypres salient from Graven- 
stafel to the north of Keerselaere. 

Battalion histories already written have told the stories of those 
days and the historians have not overlooked the stirring part played 
by the machine gun sections. Unfortunately, many battalions have 
failed to find a chronicler and so, except for isolated but extremely 
outstanding incidents in which machine gunners played heroic roles, 
we can but sketchily follow the fortunes of 12 battalions and their 
machine gun sections. 

There seems little doubt but that, added to our inferiority in the 
number of machine guns, sections were subject to widely varying 
ideas of employment. The gravest mistake in their employment was 
that too often they were committed entirely to the front line instead 
of to the supports. 

Brigade Machine Gun Officers were already functioning. 

The co-ordination of machine guns on a frontage greater than 



30 THE CANADIAN EMMA GEES" 

that of a battalion in operations fell to the B. M. G. 0. But, except 
for special assignments to come later, there was little opportunity 
at this time of exercising those functions. The machine gun sections 
were part and parcel of the battalions. The B. M. G. 0. did not have 
command of the guns in action, except those in reserve or explicitly 
placed under his direction. He performed a valuable function, how 
ever, in co-ordinating training when the sections were out of the line. 
And the appointment was to be more significant than it appeared 
when first established. 

The Canadians had been on the fringe of the Battle of Neuve 
Chapelle, which commenced with such high hopes on March 10th. The 
Canadian artillery had actually taken a part in the preparations for 
this great push which was to be a test of the new British fighting 
machine and aimed to capture the Aubers ridge, which dominated 
Lille. The enemy s outposts had been driven in after a charge follow 
ing the most terrific cannonade of the war to date. 

"But beyond these, their fortified places bristled with machine 
guns which wrought havoc on our troops and, indeed, brought the 
successful offensive to a close," wrote Sir Max Aitken in "Canada 
in Flanders." 

Hailed as a great victory, Neuve Chapelle was soon admitted to 
have been a great failure. A mile of territory along a three-mile front 
was conceded small recompense for losses that had been extremely 
heavy before the battle was broken off on the third day. 

Princess Pats had won the honor of being the first overseas 
troops to take part in a major engagement when they were ordered 
to co-operate in the early morning of March 15th with the battalion 
of the Rifle Brigade in an attack on the St. Eloi mound, which had 
been lost to the Germans a few days before. Pats came out of the 
engagement with a reputation for coolness and resolution, though 
enemy machine gun fire was credited with smothering the attack 
from the onset. 

When the Canadian battalions took over the line on Gravenstafel 
ridge they had marched through Ypres, historic Flemish city, with 
its great Cloth Hall, beautiful cathedral and truly Old World air, as 
yet untouched by war. Children played in the streets as the Canadians 
marched through in the early evening and out past the ramparted 
walls along the road to St. Jean. Some took the right, turning up 
the Fortuin road at Wieltje; the others took the left road that led up 
to St. Julien and on to the brooding trenches, now defined in the gently 
rolling landscape. These earthworks had not been so much dug as 
they had been built up owing to the soggy nature of the soil. There 
was no elaborate support system yet dug and the Canadians spent 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 31 

their first few days in the line starting a program which would 
develop supporting points in the rear. 

The Canadian troops woke up to April 22nd a warm day in 
which Mars seemed to have dozed off into a spring torpor ; on their 
second tour of the line, the Canadians felt like veterans. The day 
before, the Germans had bombarded Ypres, a continuance of the 
wanton destruction of the Flemish city which had commenced on 
April 20th. But that day a spring drowsiness reigned over the whole 
front in an area which had already seen the First Battle of Ypres 
and the Britons of 1914 win imperishable fame as dogged fighters. 

At five o clock in the afternoon the haze was suddenly rent by a 
violent bombardment. Huge 15-inch shells roared overhead to carry 
more destruction to Ypres. Suddenly those in reserve saw a yellowish- 
green cloud ascending over a width of three miles along the front. 
Soon, on the left, fleeing Turcos could be seen and the curtain in a 
matter of seconds was rudely yanked up on the Second Battle of 
Ypres, and Canada s citizen army was face to face with a test that 
would have been an iron test for the best professional army in the 
world. 

Something of the supernatural will always surround the Second 
Battle of Ypres. By all the laws of war, all the known standards of 
the human will to endure, the Canadians should have been driven 
back in utter confusion and chaotic rout by the masses of Germans 
flung at them. But, although a wide breach of four miles was opened, 
Canadians not only heM the line but counter-attacked from the 
exposed flank of the 3rd Brigade and thus prevented the turning of 
the British line by the use of this inhuman weapon of war poison 
gas. 

This battle, which raged for many days, was to see heroism 
hoisted to new pinnacles and, though much of the story has been 
pieced together, there will be hundreds of acts of courage and devo 
tion forever locked in the breasts of the thousands who fell. 

In that fiery furnace of war, the 1st Canadian Division won for 
Canada the spurs of nationhood and welded together a Canadian 
military tradition of what had necessarily been fragments. 

And there, too, was born the tradition of the Canadian Machine 
Gun Corps, even though the Corps was yet to be born, for in those 
raging, desperate days when deeds of surpassing bravery were the 
rule, it fell to the lot of machine gunners to provide exploits that 
gained for three of them the highest recognition the award of the 
Victoria Cross and for many others a record of high valor and grim, 
tenacious courage which was to shed lustre over the machine gun 
service in the days to come. 

On April 23rd, the epic stand of the 3rd Brigade, with its attenu- 



32 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

ated left flank thrown back to form a sharp salient, was providing 
feats of heroism on every hand that seemed to make it a commodity 
common to the Canadians. But on a day of audacious deeds, Major 
W. B. M. King of the Canadian Field Artillery added an extra dash 
when he kept his guns in an advanced position, where he deliberately 
awaited the approach of the Germans until they were within 200 
yards. Into the dense masses of Germans he poured a blasting fire 
and then, with the help of infantrymen of the 14th Battalion, he got 
his guns away. It was here that Lance-Corporal Fred Fisher of the 
13th Battalion came into the picture, bringing up a machine gun to 
cover the battery s retreat. All four men of his crew were shot down, 
but he took men from the 14th Battalion and worked his gun until 
the battery was clear. When the artillerymen were clear, he pushed 
on ahead to reinforce our thin but determined front line. But as he 
was getting the gun into position under a hail of shrapnel, machine 
gun and rifle fire, he was killed. He was awarded the Victoria Cross 
posthumously. 

The next day, the embattled 2nd Brigade, under Currie, were still 
continuing their glorious stand on the right, and Lieut. Edward 
Donald Bellew, machine gun officer of the 7th Battalion, had two guns 
in action on the high ground overlooking Keerselaere. The enemy s 
attack breaks in full force on the battalion s right and right flank, 
the latter being exposed owing to a gap in the line. The right com 
pany was soon put out of action but the advance of the Germans was 
temporarily stayed by Bellew, who had sited his guns on the left of 
the right company. Sergt. Peerless was fighting one gun and Bellew 
the other. In defiance of the Germans, Bellew hoisted a loaf of bread 
on a bayonet and drew a perfect fury of fire from them. Reinforce 
ments were sent forward, but they, in turn, were surrounded and 
destroyed. With the enemy in strength less than 100 yards from 
him, with no further assistance in sight and practically surrounded, 
Bellew and Peerless decided to stay and fight it out. Sergt. Peerless 
was killed but Bellew fought on, then was wounded and fell. Again 
he dragged himself to the gun and sent more bursts of fire at the 
Germans who were crawling toward him. As his gun jammed he 
raised a rifle and smashed the Colt and, fighting to the last, was taken 
prisoner. The 7th Battalion had in the space of three days lost its 
Colonel and 600 of its officers and men. 

The 8th Battalion (Little Black Devils) was also sorely pressed 
on that day and next day still more so. Sergt. W. A. Aldritt was 
personally operating two of the battalion s machine guns from the 
front line parapet. One gun was soon put out of action but Aldritt 
continued to turn a withering fire on all advancing Germans, though 
machine gun and rifle bullets fell like hail around him. When late 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 33 

in the afternoon, after being many times repulsed, the enemy finally 
broke through on both flanks and almost surrounded the platoon with 
which he was operating, Aldritt was heard to drawl that "he guessed 
they were going to be captured but they would work the gun to the 
last." He continued firing after the remainder of those who could 
get away had withdrawn and the faster chatter of his Colt gun could 
still be heard in action after dark. To him fell the award of the little 
bronze cross the first of several the gallant Devils were to earn. 

Among the mentions received was that of Pte. Young of the 2nd 
Battalion, who handled his machine gun so well that he was given 
credit for stopping the German attack on the battalion on the 24th. 
Later at Givenchy he was to be wounded, but refused to leave his 
guns until the action was over. 

The worn but undaunted 1st Division, which had had its losses 
made good by drafts and been joined by a dismounted detachment of 
the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, 1,500 strong, was billeted south of 
Steenwerk and Bailleul through the first weeks of May. They could 
hear the echoing thunder of an attack which the British had launched 
on May 9th. This attack was designed to divert reinforcements being 
rushed to the Lens front, where Gen. Joffre had launched a big scale 
attack and had reached the very outskirts of Lens itself. The British 
attack beat vainly against the impregnable German defences for 
several days and then was renewed with redoubled fury on May 16th. 

Hardly had the echoes of the May 9th attack come to the 1st 
Canadian Division than there also came some details of the tragic 
prelude in which the Princess Pats had figured the day before, on 
May 8th. A night and a day of intense bombardment were climaxed 
on the 8th by three determined infantry assaults. Trenches were 
obliterated in the holocaust of fire that swept over the 80th Imperial 
Brigade area near Bellewaarde Wood. 

Epics of human behavior were blasted into dust-like fragments 
as the roll call of the Pats, which numbered 635 on the evening of 
the 7th, had melted away to 153 by 6 p.m. of the 8th. All the senior 
officers had been killed or wounded early. For most of that tragic, yet 
glorious day, Lieuts. Niven, Papineau and Vandenberg were the only 
officers left. Vandenberg, machine gun officer, had already arranged 
novel forms of rifle batteries among the ingenious devices used when 
the Pats had taken up their new line around May 4th, and this officer, 
who was to become somewhat of a legendary figure in the Machine 
Gun Corps afterward, was until wounded, with Niven and Papineau 
to direct one of the most stubborn stands in the whole history of the 
war to come. 

Even though the Pats were mostly English reservists, Canada 



34 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

took this tragic stand of the Pats as its own, which it was when the 
shattered unit was rebuilt. 

And once more the machine gunners had played an outstanding 
role. Two guns up front were buried early but after hours of labor 
were dug up again and put in order to deal with sniping nests. This 
brought such an avalanche of fire that they were buried again. Guns 
and crews were repeatedly buried as the enemy uncannily discovered 
them. 

"Every individual in the regiment proved himself a hero," says 
an account of the Pats in "Canada in the Great War," "but special 
mention must be made of Corp. Dover of No. 4 Company, who dis 
interred his gun on three different occasions, took it apart, cleaned 
it and brought it into action, and thrice succeeded in opening a 
destructive fire on the charging enemy. Dover was the survivor of 
many gun crews, but his last stand cost him both a leg and an arm, 
and late that same day this heroic soldier extricated his maimed and 
broken body from the surrounding debris and trailed his mutilated 
limbs across the intervening ground towards the former support 
trench. His moans attracted the attention of some men of the Shrop 
shire Light Infantry and two gallant fellows came out of their trench 
and carried the wounded man to the parapet. He was then recognized, 
but as he was being passed up to the arms of comrades waiting to 
receive him into the comparative safety, a chance bullet, aimed in the 
darkness, passed through his brain and wrote finis to his story." 

On May 19th the battered 2nd and 7th British Divisions were 
withdrawn and the Canadian Division and the 51st Highland (Terri 
torial) Division took up the fight. And thus Festubert was enscrolled 
on Canada s battle honors and added glory fell to the Canadians in 
their first attacking role. 

Festubert was another milepost in the long road of futile sacrifice 
still ahead. Canadian casualties were 2,204 as in days of minor but 
epic thrusts the Canadians penetrated 600 yards on 2,500 yards of 
front. Once again the performances of the machine gun sections 
are wrapped up in battalion histories, written or still untold. One 
general mention made of them is in connection with the attack on 
the Orchard of the 16th Scottish on May 20th. On the night previous 
to the attack, two of the battalion s machine guns were located in a 
deserted house close to the German lines. Next evening at 7.45, 
when the attack was launched, these two guns replied to a withering 
fire from German machine guns which swept the Scottish as they 
climbed out over the trenches. These two guns were credited with 
keeping the Germans, who had withdrawn to their support trenches 
in the bombardment, from rushing overland to man their front system 
in time to meet the Scottish. 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 35 

Festubert, while a military failure, had vast repercussions. It 
demonstrated first of all that the German defences were impregnable 
against such attacks as had been planned, no matter to what heights 
of heroism the attacking forces might rise. 

"They had constructed trenches reinforced by concrete-lined 
galleries and linked them up with underground tunnels," Sir Max 
Aitken observed as Canada s "Eyewitness" "The battle of the minia 
ture fortresses proved the triumph of the machine gun. The Germans 
employed the machine gun to an extent which turned even a pigsty 
into Sebastopol." 

Festubert, secondly, brought about the accusation in the London 
Times that a shortage of munitions existed and that nothing but 
high explosives in greater quantities than were then available would 
blast the Germans from their redoubts. The crisis which brought 
about the Coalition Government came almost on the heels of 
Festubert. 

On May 31st the Canadian Division was withdrawn to rest. 

Givenchy gets but a brief mention in the report of General Sir 
John French, but within its scope it again made an urgent call on 
Canadian determination and heroism which was answered in over 
flowing measure. 

The 7th British Division on June 15th had been ordered to make 
a frontal attack on an enemy strong point known as "Stony Moun 
tain". The 1st Canadian Division was detailed to attack on the right 
flank of the Imperials and capture two lines of German trenches 
extending from Stony Mountain to another point known as 
Dorchester. 

To the 1st Canadian Battalion fell the task of making the actual 
assault. 

Two 18-pounder guns of the 4th Battery, C.F.A., had been moved 
into position in the front line for the assault and cleverly concealed. 
Sappers had tunnelled a mine toward the German line. The enemy 
was answering our bombardment viciously but the attacking battal 
ion, which had been waiting since 3 o clock in the jump-off trench, 
escaped lightly. Fifteen minutes before the attack swept over the top, 
the two 18-pounder guns opened fire as false parapets were suddenly 
lowered. They knocked out two German machine guns. Then the 
mine exploded, but our own men suffered heavily from the blast. Just 
at that instant the leading company leaped forward, accompanied by 
the Battalion Machine Gun Officer, Lieut. Fred Campbell, a farmer 
hailing from Mt. Forest, Ontario, and a Boer war veteran. Lieut. 
Campbell s crews had two machine guns. 

A deadly fire met the advancing company with its bombing 
parties on the flank and one of the machine gun crews was wiped 
out. Several of the other crew were killed, but the survivors reached 



36 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

the German front line trench and then advanced along a trench in 
the direction of "Stony Mountain". The machine gunners followed a 
bombing party which found itself suddenly facing a barricade which 
had been hastily put up by the Germans. The machine gun crew 
which reached this portion of the trench was reduced to Lieut. Camp 
bell and Pte. Vincent, a lumberjack from Bracebridge, Ont., the 
machine gun and a tripod. Lieut. Campbell saw a spot to mount the 
gun but a tripod could not be used. 

Pte. Vincent, it is related, suggested that he lay prone and that 
Lieut. Campbell use his back as a base. This was done and Campbell 
ran four belts through the Colt, which was getting hotter every 
minute and scorching Vincent s tunic. Campbell was hit and crawled 
out of the enemy trench and was carried into the Canadian trench 
by Comp. Sergt.-Major Owen in a dying condition. Pte. Vincent saved 
the gun, dragging the blistering hot Colt over the ground as it was 
too hot to handle. Lieut. Campbell was awarded the V. C. post 
humously. 

"Canada In Flanders" relates another incident affecting machine 
gunners, which happened on the 18th: "About midday in the neigh 
borhood of Duck s Bill ," says the account, "Lieut. E. H. Houghton 
of Winnipeg, machine gun officer of the 8th Battalion, saw a wounded 
British soldier lying near the German trench. As soon as dusk fell, 
he and Pte. Clarke, of the machine gun section, dug a hole in the 
parapet through which Clarke went and brought in the wounded man, 
who proved to be a private of the East Yorks. The trenches at this 
point were only thirty-five yards apart. Pte. Clarke had received a 
bullet through his cap during his rescue of the wounded Englishman, 
but he crawled through the hole in the parapet again and went after 
a Canadian machine gun which had been abandoned within a few 
yards of the German trench during the recent attack. He brought the 
gun safely into our trench and the tripod to within a few feet of our 
parapet. He wished to keep the gun to add to the battery of his own 
section, but the general officer commanding ruled that it was to be 
returned to its original battalion and promised Clarke something in 
its place which he would find less awkward to carry." 

And on such glorious incidents as these does the machine gunners 
tradition continue to grow and take on added lustre. The legend out 
strips them, for in numbers they are still but a small part of the 
Battalion. 

The Automobile Machine Gun Brigade, now rechristened the 
"1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade," arrived in France on 
June 16th, just after the echoes of Givenchy had died down. Even 
though designed for highly mobile duty and arriving at a time when 
the . fact that the war had settled into an apparent stalemate of 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 37 

trenches stretching from the Vosges to the North Sea was beginning 
to be recognized by the Allies, the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun 
Brigade was destined in its personnel, rather than in its purely 
active role, to have a far-reaching effect on Canadian machine 
gunnery. 

The roster of officers who landed in France with the Motors was 
as follows : 

LIEUT.-COL. R. BRUTINEL, Officer Commanding 

LIEUT. E. D. WALLACE, Adjutant 

CAPT. J. E. BROWNE, O.C. "A" Battery 

LIEUT. W. E. C. MCCARTHY 

LIEUT. F. A. WILKIN 

CAPT. C. F. HAWKINS, O.C. "B" Battery 

LIEUT. F. M. GARRISON 

LIEUT. M. A. SCOTT 

CAPT. H. H. DONNELLY, Q.M. and O.C. Train 

CAPT. D. MACCLENNAN, M.O. 

Canada s war strength was rapidly gathering. The Mother 
Country, seemingly so remote in 1914, was now bound to Canada by 
a living chain of khaki-clad soldiers. 

By the end of August, 1915, there were 23,431 Canadians in 
France ; in England there were 57,206 and back in the Dominion were 
62,362 more of Canada s citizens training for what every man in 
uniform realized was no idle adventure but a grim struggle of endur 
ance on which the fate of the Empire balanced. 

The survivors of Ypres, St. Julien, Festubert and Givenchy, 
brought to full strength by reinforcing arrangements upon which 
a totally unexpected strain had been placed, were now veterans in 
every sense of the word. They spent an uneventful summer in the 
desolate salient which was at least dry for once. On September 13th, 
1915, the Canadian Corps was formed and was immediately joined 
by the 2nd Canadian Division. On December 24th the formation 
of the 3rd Division from units already in the field was announced. 

Formation of Brigade Machine Gun Companies, most important 
step to be taken in establishing of Machine Gunnery as a separate 
arm with tactics peculiarly its own and intermediate between those 
of infantry and artillery, was authorized on October 29th, 1915. 

Companies took their names from the Brigades to which they 

were attached. 

The mobilization of the 1st and 2nd Division Brigade companies 
began in December, 1915. Machine gun sections from the battalions 
were to form the nucleus for the new Brigade Machine Gun Com 
panies, which had a strength of 10 officers and 161 other ranks. 

Colt guns were to be in use until July 16, but in the transition 



38 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

of Battalion sections to Brigade Companies and the arming of the 
infantry with Lewis guns, there was to be a shortage of guns that 
was keenly felt. 

There was a contradictory appreciation and an indifference to 
machine guns in the Canadian Corps, but at least the appreciation 
outweighed the indifference. Canadians already had four guns per 
battalion when they felt the first hot breath of war in the Salient and, 
as pointed out before, some units had more. 

Canadians, however, who felt that there were still not enough 
machine guns and couldn t be for the demands this war was making, 
could not know at that time what was going on behind the scenes. 

There are enlightening passages in a book written by Brigadier- 
General Baker-Carr, founder of the Machine Gun Training Corps, 
"From Chauffer to Brigadier", which paint the dismal picture of the 
British Higher Command s apathy and indifference to machine guns. 
It was the same command, by the way, which took great pride in the 
excellent musketry training of the Old Contemptibles and much sat 
isfaction from the fact that the precision of British rifle fire in the 
retreat from Mons was such that it was mistaken by the Germans for 
a preponderance of British machine guns, and yet lost entirely the 
point and lesson of the comparison. 

Touching upon his continued urging that machine guns be in 
creased in 1915, Baker-Carr writes: 

"The fighting line, at any rate, had awakened to the realization 
of the automatic weapon and many commanders were showing them 
selves eager to learn anything they could which would help to 
strengthen their front without increasing their men. 

"Already I was urging the advisability of doubling the number 
of machine guns. I had put forward the suggestion, very tentatively, 
to G. H. Q. and had been promptly told to mind my own business. The 
commanders of larger units such as armies and army corps did not 
at that time appreciate the vast saving in man power that could be 
effected by the substitution of machinery for brawn and it was only 
when we got within the danger zone that the proposals drew forth a 
cordial response." 

He describes setting up his machine gun school behind the lines, 
though with little encouragement. 

"Not one single member of the staff of G. H. Q. ever took the 
trouble to pay a visit to the school during the six months that it was 
quartered in the Artillery Barracks, a quarter of a mile distance from 
the General Staff Office." 

In the summer of 1915, after great pressure from the fighting 
line, sanction was given to increase the number of machine guns per 
battalion from two to four. 

"Within 24 hours of hearing the news," General Carr-Baker 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 39 

writes, "I put forward a proposal to double this amended establish 
ment. G. H. Q. was horrified. 

" Look here Baker, I was told indignantly, we ve given you two 
extra guns per battalion. You ought to be satisfied. 

"Vainly I pointed out that the additional guns were not a person 
al present to me, but a badly needed increase in the arrangement of 
the fighting troops. But it was useless to argue." 

"It is," says David Lloyd George, war-time Premier of Great 
Britain, in "War Memoirs" "an incredible story for anyone who had 
no actual experience of the fanatical hostility displayed by the Higher 
Command to any new ideas." 

Continuing to describe the obstacles he faced in trying, upon the 
formation of the Ministry of Munitions, to overcome the comfortable 
complacency of the War Office, Lloyd George tells of an incident in 
which Sir Eric Geddes, who had been placed in charge of the output 
of rifles and machine guns, figured with Lord Kitchener on the sub 
ject of machine guns. . 

"I told Kitchener," he quotes in Geddes own words "that rifles 
and machine guns were the same as shillings and pence; that nine 
rifles were equal to a Lewis automatic gun and thirteen rifles to a 
Vickers machine gun in the productive effort required for their manu 
facture. I wanted to know the proportions of each wanted for nine 
months ahead, so that I could make my plans. His reply was Do you 
think I am God almighty that I can tell you what is wanted nine 
months ahead? I replied, No sir. And I do not think that I am either 
but we have to work it out between us and try and get it right. Then 
he gave me the old War Office answer, I \vant as much of both as 
you can produce. 

"My patience was wearing thin, and I think I spoke fairly defi 
nitely. I told him of the weeks I had spent trying to get these ele 
mentary facts out of his subordinates. Eventually he said that the 
proportion was to be two machine guns per battalion, four as a 
maximum, and anything above four was a luxury. That was the 
opinion of the Secretary of State, who was looked upon generally as 
our greatest soldier, on 26th of July, 1915. 

"I sat down in the War Office and wrote this down. So elated 
was I at my success in having, at last, got something upon which I 
could work that I spelt luxury wrong. I asked Kitchener to sign it. 
He always had a reluctance to sign documents and said that he gave 
orders and expected them to be obeyed. I replied that doubtless that 
was the military way but I had been brought up to accept a signature 
as an authority for money I spent, and unless he would sign it, the 
document was no good to me. He walked out of the room. Girouard 
caught him in the doorway, and said, Geddes is like that; he won t 



40 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

act unless you sign a paper. So Kitchener came back and initialled 
the document." 

A fascimile is reproduced in the Lloyd George Memoirs in the 
firm, slanting hand-writing of "K". 

Lloyd George admits that he was so indignant when he read the 
miserable estimate that he would have torn it up had not Geddes 
rescued it from him. He says Geddes treasures it still. 

"Geddes reports that I said to him : Take Kitchener s maximum, 
(four per battalion); square it, multiply that result by two; and 
when you are in sight of that again, double it again for good luck," 
Lloyd George says Geddes reports him as declaring. 

However Lloyd George did not mean, he says, that each battalion 
should have sixty-four guns but that manufacture should be on that 
scale to provide for all contingencies. 

In October, 1915, some three months after the question of the 
number of guns to be provided had been settled by him, Lloyd George 
was to run into another baffling maze of War Office apathy which had 
to it more than a suggestion of deliberate obstructionism. 

In that month the project of forming a special Machine Gun 
Corps received royal assent. 

"This was a plan which I strongly supported," he relates. "I had 
been informed of the very effective methods employed by the enemy 
to get the best results from this weapon methods involving the use 
of special machine gun companies, not permantly attached or allotted 
to any battalion or division. 

"But I was greatly alarmed to hear, shortly afterwards, that al 
though this Machine Gun Corps had been authorized, little was being 
done to make it a reality and hardly any men were being brought into 
training for it, out of the millions of men that had been recruited. 
Orders had in fact been issued that no man should be recruited for it 
or transferred to it from other units. By this date, my capacity for 
amazement at professional repugnance to new ideas or new forma 
tions had reached the saturation point. The estimated deliveries of 
machine guns by March, 1916, would reach a cumulative total of 
more than 10,000, and midsummer of over 20,000. No doubt there 
were many other demands for men being made upon the War Office, 
but the machine gun was obviously such a formidable factor in de 
fence and attack that only some curious form of unbelief and opposi 
tion could be responsible for this, to my mind, otherwise inexplicable 
and unintelligent failure to train men to make the best use of it. I 
determined, therefore, at the risk of once again interfering in some 
thing which was not departmentally my concern, to ascertain the 
exact position." 

Lloyd George then quotes from a memorandum he laid before the 
War Committee on Nov. 13, 1915, urging that Britain might make up 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 41 

her shortage in men by obtaining the equivalent fighting value in 
machine gunners and stated as his opinion, that 50,000 machine 
gunners could do the work of 250,000 infantrymen. He pointed to the 
strategic elasticity the Germans had obtained by this procedure. 

In this he was ably backed up by General Sir Archibald Murray, 
then acting Chief of the Imperial General Staff under Lord Kitchener 
(at that time away in the Mediterranean). He stated that the Gen 
eral Staff had actually started a Machine Gun School at Grantham 
but that the Adjutant-General would not supply the men. 

"As a result of my pressure," Lloyd George concludes, "the War 
Council decided to ask the Army Council to provide for 10,000 men to 
be put continuously under instruction. Actually some considerable 
delay occurred before this instruction was carried out but eventually 
a number of men were drafted from various units to the Corps Train 
ing Centre, and even then they were not especially picked men, like 
the German machine gunners, whom Sir Douglas Haig has described 
as a corps d elite. None the less they added immensely to the 
efficiency of our army. Four years later, in November 1918, the 
strength of this new branch of the army, which had been initiated 
under such difficulties, amounted to 6,427 officers and 123,835 other 
ranks." 

And yet as criminal, almost, as this neglect of the machine gun 
seems to have been in high places, those who were connected with the 
machine gun sections in the battalions in 1915, who were either in 
England or forming and training in Canada, will recall with what 
indifference their weapon and their work was regarded by the rest of 
the battalion. True, the legend of the "Suicide Squad" had reached 
full blown proportions but there was remarkably little interest mani 
fested in the machine gun itself. Machine gun officers were not 
pestered by requests of even the mechanically-minded to see the guns 
at close range. Platoon officers were pre-occupied with the task of 
achieving precision in forming fours and if there was any envy of 
the M. G. O., it was that he was allowed to wear spurs and riding 
boots, rather than that he commanded concentrated fire power equal 
to a company of infantry. 

The machine gun section, so often left to its own devices in train 
ing and outside the regimentation of the battalion, in its turn 
developed an individuality of its own. When battalion sections were 
later absorbed into the M. G. Corps, they were to find there the in 
dividuality of the section merely expanded as to scale. 

But if there was a shortage of machine guns, there was no short 
age of faith in the weapon by Canadians. 

1915 had witnessed the formation of many separate machine gun 
units in Canada. The Batons, Bordens and the Yukon came along in 
fast succession and that same year also saw the 86th Battalion of 



42 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

Hamilton, under Lieut.-Col. W. W. Stewart, (later killed at Vimy 
Ridge) recruited as the first and only machine gun battalion in the 
British Army. 

The Borden Battery, recruited in Ottawa and the mining areas 
of Cobalt and the Porfcupine, had arrived in France on September 
15th, 1915, and during the winter of 1915-16 served with the Second 
Canadian Division. 

The officers serving with it on arrival in France were: Major 
E. J. Holland, V.C., officer commanding; Capt. P. A. G. McCarthy, 
Lieut. W. F. Battersby, Lieut. E. H. Holland, Lieut. J. H. Rattray. 

The Eaton Battery crossed to France the night of February 24th- 
25th, 1916, and operated as Divisional troops under the 3rd 
Division, the battery having been formed from the original Eaton 
M. G. Brigade, most of which had been sent to France as drafts for 
other M. G. units. The officers serving with this battery were : Major 

E. L. Knight, Lieuts. W. A. Holloway, P. McMurdoch and E. Osborne. 

The unit first known as the Boyle Mounted Machine Gun Detach 
ment, and raised by Yukon Joe (later Lieut-Col.) Boyle in Dawson 
City, Yukon Territory, had been attached to the Eaton M. G. Brigade. 
They were not on establishment and had no guns or equipment for 
many months. Through the winter of 1915-16, they remained at 
Shorncliffe and then 33 of the 50 originals who had not been selected 
for drafts to France were formed into a battery which later became 
attached to the 4th Division in training at Bramshott, as divisional 
troops. The officers who eventually proceeded to France with the 
unit were: Capt. H. F. V. Muerling, officer commanding; Lieut. R. D. 
Harkness, Lieut. W. C. Nicholson, Lieut. H. H. Strong. 

Although the establishment of the Brigade companies had been 
authorized in October, it was not until 1916 that they came into being, 
and that was on New Year s Day. 

The 1st Brigade Company was mobilized near Mont des Cats; 
the 2nd near Ploegstreert and the 3rd near Meteren. 

The roster of officers in the three companies were : 

1st C.M.G. Company Capt. W. J. A. Lalor, O.C.; Lieuts. J. I. 
Bundy, A. W. Couler, H. E. Detchon, A. F. Dowling, S. A. Griffin, 

F. Hotrum, W. H. Scruton, G. T. Scott-Brown. 

2nd C.M.G. Company Capt. T. H. Raddall, O.C.; Lieuts F. 
Edgar, J. E. Hetherington, N. E. Kitson, J. E. Mathews, C. G. 
McLean, J. A. Ptolmy, J. J. Sclater, R. McB. Stewart, B. S. Walton. 

3rd C.M.G. Company Capt. E. H. Houghton, O.C. : Capt W. M. 
Pearce, Lieuts. F. M. Bressey, L. Buchanan, E. W. Brookfield, A. 
Denholm, J. Kay, H. A. Kennedy, J. M. McEachern, G. K. McBeth, 
H. G. Pepall, J. S. Thorpe, H. M. Wilson. 

The companies were equipped and made ready for the line in the 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 43 

order of their brigades with the exception of the 3rd Company, which 
was unable to obtain guns for several months. 

The machine gun units of the 2nd Division were formed in the 
same way. 

The roster of officers of the three companies upon formation 
were as follows : 

4th C.M.G. Company Lieut. J. Edwards, O.C.; Lieuts. J. Dun- 
canson, W. J. Forbes-Mitchell, A. D. Gray C. H. J. James, J. Mess, H. 
J. Price, J. G. Weir, J. F. White, R. W. White. 

5th C.M.G. Company Lieut. S. W. Watson, O.C.; Lieuts. L. H. 
Bartram, A. C. Bowles, C. V. Grantham, W. H. F. Ketcheson, J. E. 
McCorkell, C. E. H. Thomas, F. H. Duck. 

6th C.M.G. Company Lieut. T.A.H. Taylor, O.C. ; J. Basevi, C. 
L. Beck, A. G. W. McLean, G. G. White, A. Eastham. 

The 3rd Division companies were also formed in the line. The 
units were organized in March and April and on formation, the 
following officers were serving: 

7th C.M.G. Company Capt. H. F. Cook, O.C. ; Lieuts. H. T. 
Beecroft, G. 0. C. Fenton, F. A. Hale, G. T. Scroggie, W. F. Tobey, 
W. G. Williams, E. H. Ziegler. 

8th C.M.G. Company Capt. W. M. Balfour, O.C. ; S. J. Redpath, 
P. W. Beatty, C. N. Bennett, J. R. Coull, W. C. Ince, C. W. Laubach, 
W. N. Moorehouse, H. J. C. Morgan, F. A. Ney, A. W. Sine, H. C. 
Young. 

9th C.M.G. Company Capt. W.H. Bothwell, O.C.; Lieuts. H. D. 
Browne, G. W. Beresford, R. C. Cordingly, K. Eager, I. Mackinnon, 
E. I. H. Ings, L. S. Page, G. Rutherford, R. A. Whittaker. 

Christmas Day in the sodden trenches of the salient had been a 
depressing event for the Canadians and the New Year brought only 
a continuance of the monotony of trench life in weather that was 
generally dreary. In November, the 5th and 7th Battalions had 
initiated trench raids, a Canadian invention which was destined to be 
a feature of the British policy of keeping alive an offensive spirit 
during years to come of nightly battles in No Man s Land. Better and 
more deadly bombs, mine throwers, rifle grenades, improved artillery 
and handy weapons like the trench knife and knobkerrie had been 
added to the refinements of trench warfare. 

Routine trench warfare exacted, of course, its daily toll of casual 
ties but there was nothing of major importance occurred to the 
Canadians until toward the end of March. 

During the winter the British tunnellers had wormed their way 
underground to the support lines of the Germans on the bluff in front 
of St. Eloi. On March 27, with the 3rd British Division in the line, a 
series of seven mines packed with thousands of tons of high explosive 
were fired. The resulting earthquake shook the ground for miles 



44 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

around and erupted seven enormous geysers of earth and stones, 
leaving huge craters where only a few moments before unsuspecting 
Germans were engaged in their daily routine of trench life. 

The explosion blew out a whole salient along a front of 600 yards 
and the Imperials advanced to consolidate. The German lines had 
been obliterated but as the British took possession and sought to link 
up the craters separated by a morass of mud and water-filled shell 
holes, the eneniy poured such an intense concentration of artillery 
and machine gun fire into the small area that nothing could live. 
When the 2nd Canadian Division relieved the utterly exhausted 3rd 
Imperial Division on April 4th, only remnants of trenches choked 
with dead and wounded were to be seen. The 6th Brigade tried to 
hold the line with patrols and bombing posts while men of the 5th 
Brigade in working parties attempted to construct new trenches. 
Rifles and machine guns jammed with the mud, supplies and rations 
could not be got up and how any lived to come out of that holocaust of 
high explosive will always be miraculous. For sixty hours the bom 
bardment went on, during which time the units in the craters were 
totally isolated. Little detail of the action can be gathered up in the 
chaos reigning on this tortured ground. Craters changed hands as 
epic hand-to-hand struggles, which must ever go unrecorded, took 
place through five endless days and nights but Canadians held grimly 
to the ground. 

The 2nd Canadian Division lost over 4,000 men and the units 
engaged suffered an agonizing ordeal that was out of all proportion 
to the importance of the ground at issue. Men who went through it 
may justly claim that the war, nowhere and at no time, was to pro 
duce anything like the concentrated carnage that was the price of 
these craters. 

The historic battle for Verdun had already started on February 
21 wherein France was to give enduring evidence of her manhood s 
will and strength to endure unbelievable hardships and to provide a 
depth of courage in wells from which Frenchmen may ever draw up 
revivifying draughts of pride of race. 

On June 1st, the 3rd Division was holding a sector in the Ypres 
salient a few miles south of Langemark and St. Julien. The 3rd 
Division was on the left with the 7th and 8th Brigades in the line. 
The 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division was on their right, reaching 
down as far as Hill 60. 

The front was ominously quiet and an attack was more or less 
expected. 

Major-General Mercer, commanding the 3rd Division, and Brig 
adier-General Victor Williams, commanding the 8th Brigade, were 
making an inspection when, at nine o clock, the first deluge of shells 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 45 

came over. Williams was wounded and later taken prisoner by the 
Germans and as the intense bombardment rocked the whole area hour 
after hour, General Mercer tried to get back through the barrage. He 
was wounded near Armagh Wood and his aide, Lieut. Gooderham, 
dragged him into a ditch. When the Huns swept over the 4th C.M.R. s 
in their first attack, the General and his aide escaped detection but 
General Mercer was killed by a British shell burst in the supporting 
barrage for the fourth attack of eight which Canadians attempted 
that night to win back the captured ground. 

Six hundred of the C.M.R. s were killed and wounded as the 
Germans swept over in dense waves following what was said to have 
been the most intense bombardment of the war to date, over one 
million shells roaring over and smashing trenches out of all recog 
nition. One whole company of the Pats, in a salient known as the 
Loop, were blown up by a German mine and the Pats were actually at 
one time firing into the backs of the Germans surging past them on 
the right flank. Another company stood off repeated assaults on the 
front line for 18 hours. 

Nine battalions were mustered for a counter-attack on June 3rd 
but it went badly from the first, even to the arrangements, the 3rd 
Brigade carrying the brunt of the parried thrust and suffering the 
worst casualties. It was bitter ding-dong fighting for days and the 
Canadians planned another general attack but before they got it off 
the Germans came over in a mass attack against the 6th Brigade, 
survivors of the bitter fighting at the St. Eloi craters, on the evening 
of June 6th. The thrust was aimed at the village of Hooge, the 
village on the Menin road down which the Germans hoped for an 
opening through the iron ring around Ypres. They came on in dense 
masses and carrying full equipment as if on their way to the Channel. 
Once again it is claimed that the preliminary bombardment which 
started at 7 o clock in the morning exceeded in sheer intensity any 
thing the Canadians had been called upon to face. The Canadians 
suffered heavily but, although losing the debris which had once been 
Hooge, held their support line solidly. The Battalion Lewis guns 
were proving their mettle now and with the Brigade guns in support, 
defence in depth was attained though not in those terms. 

The Brigade Companies newly formed and with so many other 
things to think of had not become historically minded. Their reports 
as incorporated in Brigade diaries in connection with the battles of 
St. Eloi, Sanctuary Wood and Hooge are terse and devoid of any 
adornment in the way of description. 

One does run into descriptive items in the History of the 
Princess Pats, for instance, in connection with the fighting at Sanc 
tuary Wood as in the following : 



46 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

"Lieut. D. S. Forbes, who was in command of the Brigade 
machine guns, was hit in the face in Lovers Walk and, although 
unable to speak, refused to leave the trench and continued to carry on 
with his men." 

In another passage it says : 

"Lieut. H. T. Beecroft of the 7th M.G. Company discovered that 
certain parts of the line were short of food and, not being able to 
spare his own men, personally carried up on his own back sacks of 
food after daylight had broken." 

Other officers of the 7th M.G. Company also attracted high 
praise. 

An extract from letter from Brig. -Gen. Ketchen, D.S.O., Com 
manding 6th Can. Inf. Bgde., to Brig.-Gen. MacDonell, C.M.G., D.S.O., 
Commanding 7th Can. Inf. Bgde., dated 9.6.16. 

"... I am enclosing reports on the various officers you so kindly 
left to help us out. 

"They were most useful and your machine gun crews and guns 
were of the greatest use to us at the Culvert when the Boche came 
across. 

"They did excellent work indeed and it was very fortunate they 
were with us. 

"We all regret very much that Lieut. Ziegler was wounded, he is 
a gallant chap. . . ." 

An extract from report sent in by the 28th (North West) 
Battalion, C.E.F. and ; 

". . . Lieut. Ziegler, 7th Brigade Machine Gun Company. 

"This officer did valuable work in getting the machine guns into 
position when the enemy s fire lifted previous to the attack. 

"He showed utter disregard for personal danger. 

"He gave valuable information of the enemy s advance from a 
very exposed Observation Post that he was forced to take up. 

"He directed the fire of the guns splendidly and caused heavy 
casualties to the enemy. Unfortunately he was seriously wounded 
ten minutes after the attack commenced. . . ." 

And so it must be presumed, lacking more specific descriptions, 
that all the newly-formed Machine Gun Companies, who with their 
brigades were caught in those furious German attacks, acquitted 
themselves much along the lines of the 7th Company. 

The 4th Division arriving in France in the middle of August had 
a sprinkling of veterans, in its three Machine Gun Companies, the 
10th, llth and 12th. It was an odd coincidence that the companies 
should land in France on dates corresponding to their numbers. Thus 
the 10th Company landed on French soil on August 10th and so on 
with the others in that order. 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 47 

The rosters of the officers of these companies as they landed in 
France consisted of the following : 

10th M.G. Company Capt. J. Mess, O.C. ; Lieuts. C. T. Bowring, 
H. A. Fowler, C. U. Hebden, A. E. Ladler, G. Sage, C. W. Smith, C. 

E. Thompson, K. Weaver, H. S. Whiteside. 

llth M.G. Company Capt. B. M. Clerk, O.C.; Lieuts. H. Ward, 

F. E. Boultbee, F. Bullock-Webster, H. J. Burden, K. W. Junor, T. F. 
Murray, E. W. Sansom, A. G. Scott, C. W. Stroud. 

12th M.G. Company Capt. H. E. Hodge, O.C.; Lieuts. L. F. 
Pearce, F. R. Alford, C. C. Drew, I. C. Hall, H. E. Henderson, H. T. 
Logan, H. A. Peverly, J. A. Riddell, W. G. Williams. 

Since the hard fighting of April, May and June, the Canadian 
Corps had had a quiet time as quiet as the salient could ever be for 
raids, artillery shoots and patrols brought constant casualties. 

In January, Capt. Muerling had given the first lectures on in 
direct fire to a class consisting of the Officers and N.C.O. s of the 
Eaton Machine Gun Battery and also to the Officers of the Boyle unit, 
then attached. 

In the sumer of 1916, the Canadian Machine Gun School estab 
lished at Napier and Riseborough barracks was amalgamated with 
the 86th (Machine Gun) Battalion to form the Canadian Machine 
Gun Depot. Major (Sonny m boy) Bamfield continued as Chief In 
structor. Before February 1917, 7,000 officers and men were to have 
received training in the Colt Machine Gun School (started in April, 
1915, when Capt. D. J. Johnston, 1st Battalion, the Queen s Own 
(Royal West Rents), was loaned to the Canadians to instruct in 
machine gunnery at the Canadian Machine Gun School and finally the 
Machine Gun Depot. 

During this period (1915-16) selected Canadian officers, N.C.O. s 
and other ranks were sent to attend machine gun courses conducted 
by the British authorities at Nisques, near St. Omer, Camiers and in 
England at the Machine Gun Training Centre at Grantham. There 
was as yet no Canadian Corps Machine Gun School in the field. 

The 4th Division was not long in getting its first taste of warfare 
and after relieving a Division leaving for the Somme, caried out a big 
raid with remarkable success on September 16th-17th. 

In the late fall of 1915, the British had extended their line from 
Arras to the Somme. British strength had now reached close to the 
peak at which it was now possible to stage an offensive on a scale 
greater than that previously attempted on the Western Front. 

Most post war accounts agree that the British and French 
strategy at this stage was not aimed at a sudden break-through and 
the capture of territory so much as it was to bring the Germans into 
action and through a preponderance of artillery and a constant and 



48 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

tremendous pressure, blast him out of his field fortresses and destroy 
them on a cold, calculated mathematical basis of killing two for one. 

There was little attempt made to conceal the vast preparations 
and effort the British were making and so on June 30th, when the sun 
finally chased away weeks of sullen clouds and rain, the order was 
given for the 25-mile wide British attack to be launched next morning. 
From June 24th the bombardment along the whole British front but 
more concentrated on the Somme had become more intense and on a 
crashing scale not even envisaged but last year. 

On the morning of July 1, the very earth shook as the full blast 
of the British barrage opened, and along 25 miles, troops went over 
the top as if on parade. But the counter-barrage of the Germans was 
even more deadly for, while deep tunnels had saved many German 
lives, the British troops, walking steadily behind their barrage, 
literally melted away. The mathematics of attrition were adding up 
wrong. By nightfall, on the sector from Gommecourt to Thiespval, the 
attack had everywhere been held and a pitiful remnant of our own 
troops were back in their jumping off line. Machine guns from pits 
dug well in advance of the German line had extracted the heaviest 
toll. To the south, the attack went much better though slower than 
the rapid advance the French had made. On a combined front of 14 
miles from Mametz to Fay, the British and French had won the first 
German line and captured 6,000 prisoners. 

The Canadians, knowing they were destined for this front, could 
hear for weeks the roar of the giant cannonode as the attack slowed 
down after the first few days to a matter of keeping up a steady and 
immense pressure. As their successive treks to the south began, they 
realized with a start that at last they were to see France. 

The 1st Division was engaged in the struggle at Pozieres, north 
of Albert, on August 31st. Three days later the Canadian Corps 
occupied 4,100 yards east and west of the Bapaume road. 

The 1st M. G. Company reports that this company relieved the 
7th and 12th Australian Brigades the afternoon of August 31, on the 
Pozieres front. On September 3rd, the Canadian machine gunners 
covered the attack of the 12th Australian Brigade upon Ferme du 
Moquet with indirect fire. "Rapid fire opened at 5.10 a.m. and was 
maintained until 6.45 a.m. ; 8,000 rounds were expended. Result of 
attack not yet known. Artillery very active during the day. Weather 
fine." 

This very terse, business-like report is tucked away in the daily 
summary of the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade. 

The 1st Division was to have plenty of excitement during its 
tour in beating off German attempts to retrieve lost ground. On the 
8th the fighting was particularly bitter after two days of heavy 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 49 

artillery exchanges. The Canadians were temporarily beaten back 
from Moquet Farm, while the 2nd C.I.B. was relieving the 3rd. Again 
on the 10th, our artillery and brigade machine guns broke up a 
threatening German attack on the 1st C.I.B. sector. The 3rd Division 
arrived on the Somme on this date, having been preceded by the 
2nd Division on September 7th. 

On September llth the 1st Division was relieved on the right 
sector by the 2nd Division and early that morning the 4th C.I.B. was 
called upon to repel an attempt to rush posts out ahead of the front 
line. 

On September 12th, the 3rd Division took over a new area from 
the Ovillers-Courcelette Road south to Moy Avenue. 

For an impending assault, jumping-off trenches were straight 
ened out or captured in minor pushes. 

On September 13th the British artillery started a sustained bom 
bardment and then came Friday morning, September 15th, and per 
fect autumn weather with a light mist swirling around the slopes. At 
6 a.m. the British bombardment reached a new note of fury and at 
6.20 the 2nd and 3rd Divisions advanced down the slope and stormed 
Sugar Trench and Fabeck Graben. Lumbering along with the waves 
of troops in the wake of the barrage falling like a curtain of iron 
ahead of them, wobbled queer monsters of iron, which dipped into 
trenches and huge craters and crawled crazily up the other side. 
They were almost as great a surprise to the troops they accompanied 
as they were to the Germans who saw them looming up through the 
mist. 

Despite the vicious fusillade of machine gun fire that met them, 
the Canadian waves of attackers never faltered and soon they scaled 
the last ridges to see Martinpuich on their right and looked into the 
ruins of the Sugar Refinery, which was their Objective. The momen 
tum of the whole attack of the Canadians, though set back here and 
there by stubborn German resistance, had carried, by noon, beyond 
the objectives set and then it was that the adventure was expanded 
and the 5th C.I.B., which had been in reserve all morning, was 
launched against Courcelette itself. The 22nd, the 25th and the 26th 
made the assault, but it was the impetuous dash of the French- 
Canadian 22nd which featured this lightning thrust which was hastily 
improvised. 

In one day the British had broken through three of the enemy s 
main defensive systems on a front of over six miles to an average 
depth of a mile. 

"It was the most effective blow," asserted Sir Douglas Haig, "yet 
dealt at the enemy by British troops." 

Machine gunners who took part in the attack hardly recognized 



50 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

in "Creme de Menthe" and "Cordon Rouge", the two tanks fed into 
the attack with the Canadians as blood and iron brothers, but the 
tanks were officially known as "Machine Gun Corps, Heavy Section". 
Though the tanks did marvelous work in flattening out machine gun 
nests and spreading terror among many of the German troops, of 
whom, some were stout-hearted enough to offer battle to the armoured 
sides of the monsters, the wisdom of feeding them into a battle of such 
proportions in such small numbers instead of holding them as an 
overwhelming surprise over more suitable terrain was immediately 
debated. 

On this day, when Canadian arms won new lustre, reports from 
many of the Brigade Machine Gun Companies seem to be totally 
missing. 

Those that were written were terribly matter of fact. 

Apparently the new formations, while they believed they were 
fighting a war to end all war, had no notion that they were also 
supposed to do a little writing for posterity. 

But we gather enough sketchy material to see the machine gun 
ners role plainly. Indirect fire which they had been swatting up on 
is now being used in terms of barrages. Their main role, however, 
seems to be accompanying the assaulting waves and consolidating 
the captured ground and with the Germans constantly threatening 
to counter-attack and time and time again launching them in strength, 
the Brigade machine gunners had an important task. But already 
even the first brunt of that role was falling to the Lewis gun teams 
and they more than met the tests. 

As a model of brevity, one could not in an intensive search fare 
much better than with the account of the September 15th, as reported 
by the 4th M. G. Company. 

Written at 12 midnight, it states: 

"At zero hour, eight guns went over in the attack with the fifth 
wave. Eight guns fired on enemy lines from X. 5. a. 6. 6." 

What could be briefer? 

The 5th Company history reports as follows: 

At 10.00 p.m., a large party of the enemy, estimated at 700, was 
seen coming down the Bapaume-Albert road toward Courcellette 
with full kit and marching in fours. Sgt. Hobson . . . held his fire. 
In the meantime, Lieut. Bowles, in charge of "B" section, held his fire 
until the German officer was within 50 yards. All four guns opened 
up. Two of the enemy reached the guns but these were quickly 
despatched by Lieut. Bowles with the butt of an enemy rifle. Another 
jumped in beside No. 3 Gun but Corporal Houghton quickly de 
spatched him. When Sgt. Hobson heard the guns of "B" section 
open fire he immediately opened fire, cutting off their only means of 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 51 

escape. So unexpected was this attack that they threw down their 
arms and surrendered and the prisoners when counted numbered 395 
men and one officer. 

The 6th M. G. Company reports of this day : 

"Weather fine. Attack by 27th and 28th Battalions on German 
lines. No. 2 section advanced and took up defensive positions in 
support. No. 3 and 4 sections conducted indirect fire. Approximately 
45,000 S. A. A. were fired during the course of the attack." 

The 7th M. G. Company does a little better for posterity. Impor 
tant fragments piece together a more complete picture of their day s 
work on the 15th : 

"Three guns of A and one of B Sections were in action. No. 
2 gun of A put out of action when taking up position one killed, 
three wounded. 

"I had issued orders to enfilade first objective but on observation 
with glasses it was found that western part of trench was occupied 
by Canadian troops, presumably C.M.R. s. As a result guns were 
elevated to fire on eastern part of trench towards Courcelette. No. 
1 A gun went out of action by shrapnel piercing barrel casing. Good 
targets were taken advantage of as groups of enemy rushed from 
eastern end of sunken road trench overland towards Fabeck Graben. 
(This was at 6.10 p.m.) 

"At 6.15 p.m. fire was lifted to second objective. Fabeck Graben 
trench on which frontal and oblique fire was brought to bear. Obser 
vation good, showing heavy losses of the enemy inflicted by machine 
guns as enemy abandoned Fabeck Graben and retreated to Zollern 
Graben. At 6.30 p.m. range lifted and barrage was placed on Zollern 
Graben and road in rear." 

Again on the 16th, the same company report says: 
"At 3 p.m. issued orders re attack by 7th Brigade on Zollern 
Graben. About 4.40 p.m. fire was opened on Zollern Graben. Our 
artillery fire was inaccurate and the enemy showed himself in large 
numbers in trench. Securing excellent observation of fire, we were 
enabled to bring whole group on trench." 

Later the report says that on advice from Royal Flying Corps, 
fire was ordered on Sunken Road. 

The casualty report shows four killed and 12 wounded. Of two 
men recommended for bravery, one was attached from the Princess 
Pats. 

The 8th M. G. Company report tells of having five wounded as 
the artillery warmed up for the show two days later. 

In part it goes on to say : 

"At 6.25 a.m. (five minutes after artillery) our machine guns 
opened barrage fire as per table. In addition to our barrage, 10 guns 



52 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

from 1st Canadian M. M. G. Battery were in position to west of 
Pozieres firing towards Courcelette. Also four guns of 9th C.M.G. 
Company in position near R 34. a 4.4. 

"At 8.15 a.m. about 75 German prisoners passed down road from 
Pozieres. All seemed glad to get out, saluted and gave us good morn 
ing. Their physique was poor and they seemed a rather low type. 

"(10.30 a.m.) Caterpillar "Land Ships" passed down road return 
ing from front. They were shelled all the way but undamaged. Our 
casualties until noon, Company 2 O.R., attached 4 O.R." 

The 9th C.M.G. Company tells of having eight guns in a barrage 
role and two sections up with battalions. 

On September 16th, the report notes : "Hostile shelling has con 
tinued heavy since yesterday s attack. German batteries very close 
to front line and within range of our guns. We are ordered to engage 
a German 77 C.M. battery. Guns are trained on German front lines 
at 6 p.m. with orders to fire if S.O.S. goes up." 

Bitter stubborn fighting continued day by day and there was 
hardly a respite in the constant and shattering roar of artillery duels. 
Attacks were minor in scope but of major intensity. The pressure 
of the Canadians was inexorably kept up. 

Another general attack was planned for September 26th, in con 
junction with British Corps on the left. The objective of the 1st and 
2nd Divisions was a ridge running northwest of Courcelette to the 
Schwaben Redoubt. 

The attack, preceded by a tremendously intense barrage, was 
launched at noon on a two-mile front. The Canadians took their 
objective but not without severe losses. Regina trench was actually 
entered but this area, to be the scene of further bitter fighting, was 
relinquished. The 2nd Brigade, on the morning of the 27th, drove 
the Germans back to Regina trench but lost the most of their gain 
as a strong German counter-attack swept over. At 6.30 that night, 
the Germans withdrew from their line and patrols were pushed out to 
the North and South Practice trenches along the Dyke Road and 
towards Regina trench between East and West Miraumont Roads. 
Germans reinforced on the left, drove the 14th Battalion back 200 
yards from Kenora trench. 

A strange sight met the eyes of the Canadian troops on the 28th 
when Canadian cavalry patrols pushed out to get in touch with the 
enemy, when it was learned that they had withdrawn from their 
main line of resistance to another position. Two patrols working 
toward Le Sars went over a mile where Germans were located in 
Destremont Farm and another patrol, according to an account, pene 
trated 2,500 yards north of Courcelette, actually crossing Regina 
trench, before snipers forced them to turn back. The Canadian lines 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 53 

were immediately advanced, the 4th Brigade thrusting 1,000 yards 
to the northeast of Courcelette. There was ding dong fighting around 
Kenora trench and German attacks threatened constantly. 

Again, in connection with these days of stubborn battle, reports 
of the Machine Gun Companies are fragmentary. 

The 3rd Company, for instance, had two reserve sections firing 
a barrage under the command of the O.C. 1st C.M.G.C. Brigade from 
positions northeast of Pozieres. Four other guns supported the 
attack of the 14th Battalion and excellent results on approaches and 
sunken roads to the rear of Regina trench were claimed by the eight 
barrage guns when they moved up after the attack had been launched. 
On September 27th, these guns kept up an intermittent fire on work 
ing and ration parties of the enemy as they were momentarily 
glimpsed. Suspected channels of movement were liberally sprayed 
by the machine gunners. 

The 6th C.M.G. Company reports very briefly on its activities, 
though it had six guns up with the 28th, 29th and 31st Battalions. 
On the 28th this report says the weather is fine and remarks upon 
cavalry patrols being pushed out and of impending relief by 4th 
C.M.G. Company. 

The 8th C.M.G. Company on the 26th had 10 guns firing barrage 
in conjunction with the Borden and Eaton Batteries and the 3rd 
C.M.G. Company. 

An officer, who had two guns with the barrage group, reported : 
"My left flank gun continued through the whole barrage, but 
my other gun was put out of action by an H.E. shell after firing for 
only half an hour. One man was killed and one wounded. At 1.15 
the No. 2 on the left gun was wounded and shortly after the new No. 
2 had to be taken off duty suffering from shell shock." 

The 14th Battalion asked several times for barrages and many 
S.O.S. calls were answered during a night of heavy shelling by the 
enemy. 

"B" Section of the same company had a very similar experience, 
but escaped without the loss of any men, but one of the guns was 
put out of action. 

These reports deal only with those machine guns in an indirect 
fire role and reflect little of the bitter nature of the fighting nor the 
conditions under which this tide of destruction ebbed and flowed 
incessantly across the churned-up, tortured earth that had not so 
long ago been a pleasant enough countryside. Indirect or barrage 
m.g. sections were suffering heavily, but we know nothing of what 
was happening the crews which went forward with the dogged waves 
of infantry, except that in the steadily-mounting lists of casualties, 



54 



THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES 




Machine Gun Section, Ottawa, 1901 

(Lieut. -Col. Birtwhistle, Secretary of the D. R. A., was at that time the Lieutenant commanding 

the section. I 

machine gunners were doing their share to tragically prove that 
attrition had a double edge which could cut both ways. 

By October 1st, the 2nd and 3rd Divisions were ready to attack 
the Regina trench system into which Canadians had at times pene 
trated. The 4th and 5th C.M.R. s of the 8th C.I.B. were attacking 
on the 3rd Division front and on the right, elements of the 5th 
and 4th C.I.B. s formed the spearhead for the 2nd Division thrust. 
The attack was launched in the afternoon and though preceded by 
days of bombardment and another hurricane barrage, the most heroic 
and stubborn qualities could not prevail against the hail of machine 
gun fire, the blasting effect of counter barrages and the desperate, 
determined German counter-attacks which engulfed the Canadians. 
The day was a failure with losses that were appalling in the case of 
many of the units, but with eddies of small scale epic battles never 
surpassed in the history of British arms. 

The 5th M.G. Company report of this day is no more elaborate 
than those which have gone before. 

It says in part : 

"During the afternoon the guns were used for indirect firing 
under the M.G.O. of the 24th Battalion, the remainder of the guns 
were held in reserve with the exception of the two attached to the 
22nd and the two in Sudbury trench under the 25th Battalion. The 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 55 

two guns of C section which were put out of action on the night of 
28th-29th September were salvaged by a party in the morning and 
taken to headquarters at Bailiff Wood." 

Again on October 2nd : 

"Information was received that Lieut. C had been shell 

shocked the evening of the 1st; also that one of his guns in the 
Sunken Road at r. 24c. 88 (East Miraumont Road) had been put out 
of action during the night, two of the crew being killed and a third 
member missing. The gun and spare parts were salvaged during the 
day and the two men buried." 

Later on, after details of the relief, the last reassuring sentence 
reads that: "The health of the Company is very good." 

Failure to cut the wire sufficiently on October 1st was blamed for 
the debacle and more time was taken. Rain had been more and more 
turning the Somme into a quagmire. It was decided to attack on 
October 8th with the 1st Division on the right and the 3rd on the 
left. Each had four battalions attacking. The attack was launched 
at 4.30 a.m. Here and there remnants of a company or even an 
individual reached the general objective but a withering machine gun 
fire met the waves of the attackers, who slithered uncertainly in the 
treacherous mud and blotted large segments completely out. Of this 
bitter day, in which the gallant Canadians were finally pushed back 
to their jumping off trenches, the 1st M.G. Company report says: 

" A and D Sections took up positions for indirect fire in Sugar 
trench. B Section was handed over to Lieut.-Col. Brutinel and was 
also placed in Sugar trench. 

" C Section was withdrawn and remained in reserve. Fire was 
opened at 4.50 a.m. and a steady barrage was maintained until 6.30 
a.m. At 2.50 p.m. Germans were seen assembling in rear of their 
lost trench and four guns opened fire. At 3.03, Capt. Lalor ordered 
a steady barrage behind captured German trench. This fire was 
maintained until 4.30. At 5 p.m. O.C. 4th Battalion requested a bar 
rage in front of his line. A slow barrage was kept up until 8 p.m." 

The 3rd M.G. Company had one section covering the attack on 
the 8th. Its report says: 

"At 4.50 a.m., zero hour, all guns opened up rapid fire, establish 
ing a covering barrage for the 16th and 13th Battalions. Roads, 
tracks, paths and junctions of enemy trenches also ranged upon. 
This rapid fire was continued for two hours. During the remainder 
of the day and night intermittent fire was kept up on roads and 
approaches. 

"(On October 9th), intermittent fire continued during the day, 
ranging on roads and approaches to enemy s line. Two enemy work 
ing parties fired upon with good results." 



56 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

The 4th Division having- arrived in the Somme area on October 
5th, there was now hope of relief for the exhausted Brigades. Un 
ceasingly the artillery battle now raged. 

While other divisions were beginning to leave the area, attacks 
by the 4th Division culminated on November llth in the 46th and 
47th Battalions of the 10th C.I.B. and the 102nd Battalion of the llth 
Brigade capturing Regina trench which had cost the Canadian Corps 
so heavily. The time of attack had been switched to midnight and 
the barrage for the small frontage attacked was perhaps the most 
concentrated yet to blast the German defences. 

The 12th M.G. Company report most briefly says: "Our guns 
took part in the capture by llth Brigade of the portion of Regina 
trench untaken in the operations of October 21st, furnishing a con 
tinuous barrage of fire." 

The llth M.G. Company report is a trifle more expansive in 
saying : 

" . . . at 2 a.m. sections 1 and 2 go into line. Canadian 
infantry make successful attack on enemy trenches. Intense artillery 
fire by both sides until 5.30 a.m. From 5 a.m. to 5.30 a.m. intense 
m.g. fire. At 9.15 a.m. enemy observed gathering in Below trench. 
We at once opened rapid fire with eight machine guns very effect 
ively. Our signallers repair wire under heavy shell-fire. At 2 p.m. 
enemy collecting in Below and Gallowitz trenches. Effectively turned 
m.g. s on them. Kept this locality under fire rest of day and night." 

Canadian trenches were by now nothing but a sea of mud and 
the occupants had none of the elaborate shelters still available for 
the enemy. Despite almost unendurable conditions, the attack which 
aimed at Desire trench was being prepared and the llth and 10th 
C.I.B. s drew the assignment. 

Shortly after 6 o clock on November 17th, the barrage opened 
and although the llth Brigade got through with comparatively few T 
casualties and gained its objectives, the 10th Brigade, 50th and 46th 
Battalions ran into a devastating machine gun fire and suffered 
heavily. It was another day of epics fought on a minor scale under 
conditions that are indescribable. 

The llth M.G. Company as a matter of necessary routine 
reports : 

"Eight of our machine guns helped form the usual machine gun 
barrage. Sergt. Vincent, with one crew, advanced to the attack in 
the first wave of the 54th Battalion. Corporal Love with his guns 
went over the parapet with the 75th Battalion, while Corporal Cor- 
rigan and crew operated with the 38th Battalion. We had several 
casualties." 



CAVALCADE 1914-15-16 57 

Canada had paid dearly for her new battle honors won at the 
Somme. 

In gaining 4,000 yards on a front of 3,000, the total losses were 
24,029. 

The Somme had brought vast strides in the use of indirect ma 
chine gun fire. Though it was initiated rather more as area shoots 
than in the barrage sense as used by the artillery, reports of German 
prisoners proved its effectiveness. The laying down of S.O.S. lines 
had been speedily developed and if M.G. reports at this time lacked 
moving descriptive qualities, they did reveal the growing confidence 
of infantry battalion commanders in machine gun indirect fire sup 
port, both in the attack and as a protection against counter-attacks. 

Though the guns detailed for infantry action perhaps suffered 
the heaviest, the indirect fire groups took much punishment also. In 
the first attack on Regina trench and in the subsequent actions of the 
next few days, the Borden Battery had had three guns destroyed and 
22 casualties. 

Winter was already setting in on the Somme. It only served to 
add a chill to the sombreness of a scene that had witnessed the 
greatest British effort of the war to date and, by far, the costliest. 




VIMY RIDGE 

CHAPTER III. 

AS the Brigade Machine Gun Companies trekked northward some 
where in the wake of their Infantry Brigades, they were perhaps 
not giving much thought to the larger, tactical or strategic issues of 
the Battles of the Somme, the desolate scenes of which they were 
leaving. Theirs was a vast feeling of relief at every step which took 
them farther away from the still-incessant roar of the much heralded 
and biggest British artillery effort of the war to date and lengthened 
the distance between them and the clinging, chalky, muddy wastes of 
that scene with its always-present misery and always-blasting threat 
of death and grevious wounds as the price of so little gain in ground. 

The threat of death and wounds, of course, lay surely ahead but 
it would be in a different scene in a new shuffle of the cards of fate. 

The invisible cable routes of rumor carried their usual burden of 
messages in their uncanny but not always accurate fashion. This time 
the burden of the message was that not only was the next scene to be 
different it was to be refreshingly new. This time these rumors 
happened to be true. 

As the now fully-grown Corps settled for short spells of rest in 
the area back of Bully Grenay and Arras, fears that this might only 
be a temporary halt before the march was resumed back to the torn, 
hated salient of miserable memories, where through weary, tense, 
costly months three divisions had gone through the red baptism of 
modern war, were set at rest. 

And in the reprieve from the grisly setting of the Somme and 
the freshness of the new scene, drooping spirits quickly rose, there 
was again the rollicking song in the air and once more a bouyant 
sense of adventure never far below the surface in the Canadian 
Corps began to assert itself. 

Vimy Ridge dominated the whole eastern side of this sector, 
which had been used for some time by both sides, apparently, as a 
resting spot for tired, worn-out troops. When the German hordes 
were flung back from the very gates of Paris, Vimy Ridge was among 
those natural features, embodied in the plans of the German Higher 
Command for retreat should it become necessary. It remained a 
notable, outstanding choice along the front on which the Germans 
finally turned at bay. 

Canadians were not to be there long before the history of the 
dauntless attempts of the 10th French Army in 1915-16 to capture 



VIMY RIDGE 59 

the Ridge was common knowledge. At no point in the far-flung 
battle line had there been greater loss and fruitless waste of 
French lives. Fifty thousand had been lost in the course of a few days 
of bitter fighting as wave after wave of Frenchmen charged the de 
Lorette spur, on up the slopes of the Ridge, only to be driven from the 
very crest itself. Early in 1916, the British had taken over this front 
and, except for one futile effort in May of that year, had apparently 
concurred in the French conviction that Vimy Ridge was im 
pregnable to frontal assault under conditions of modern warfare. 
Both sides had engaged in extensive mining and tunneling and from 
this latter endeavor the Canadians were to benefit immensely when 
their big moment came. 

For the first month, Canadians took the opportunity of the rest 
that was offered and contented themselves with the normal trench 
routine, the while they became acquainted with their new sector and 
its own peculiarities. 

Then came a change. Suddenly there was purpose in the air- 
a sense of something impending. The rustle of an operation order in 
the hands of a staff officer far back at Corps seemed somehow and 
very quickly to magically echo its portent to the occupants of a bay 
in the front line trench. 

The first faint rustle had probably echoed its way up to the front 
in early December weeks so it was not surprising that the Corps 
Commander should publish an outline of an entire Operation on 
December 23rd, just approaching the festive Christmas season. He 
asked Divisions to prepare a detailed attack scheme for their own 
frontages. 

Of vast significance to the future of machine gunnery in this war was the 
request made to the Corps M.G.O. Officer, Colonel Brutinel, that "proposals 
for machine gun covering and barrage fire on the front of the Corps be 
submitted." 

It was the signal for preparations, by every arm and every unit 
of the Canadian Corps, unprecedented in their thoroughness of detail 
and co-ordination, and which were to usher in a new science of offen 
sive warfare by British troops. 

In that matter of a month, the Canadian infantry battalions, who 
had initiated a phase of trench raids and aggressive night patrols, 
had gained the upper hand in No Man s Land. Artillery fire was in 
tensified and became a still more highly-specialized accompaniment 
to these almost nightly raids. 

Brigade machine gun companies had been doing their normal 
tours with their own brigades. From their formation early in 1916, 
this was the normal routine. It meant a long stretch for the Companies 
a whole Brigade tour. The strength of gun crews under the Com 
pany establishment did not admit of reliefs being carried out within 



60 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

the company but there had seemed no other alternative. The 
experience of the Somme, however, had crystallized the severe strain 
upon the physical powers of machine gunners which an entire Bri 
gade tour entailed and relief came in the formation of a fourth Com 
pany for each Division. These additions not only offered a solution 
to the serious problem of reliefs but provided a Divisional reserve of 
machine guns, which was a much-desired tactical advance. 

The new Companies of the four Canadian Divisions assembled 
at Floringhem, near Pernes-en-Artois, and began training on January 
18th, 1917, under the supervision of Major W. M. Balfour, D.S.O. The 
Companies were numbered 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th, the 13th being 
the 1st Divisional Company and so on in order. 

The personnel of officers and other ranks were drawn from three 
sources, viz: (1) the existing Machine Gun Companies, (2) Infantry 
Battalions in the field, and (3) the Canadian Machine Gun Depot 
newly-established at Crowborough. 

As they were selected, the Divisional Companies had the follow 
ing officers commanding and serving on March 1st, 1918. 

13th Company Lieut. J. Kay, officer commanding; Lieuts. A. 
Denholm, G. W. Day, G. H. Dunbar, J. Maitland, D. A. Mclntosh, C. 
G. McLean, A. McKenzie. 

14th Company Lieut. J. Basevi, officer commanding; Lieuts. G. 
N. Douglas, P. J. Bullock, T. Dick, T. F. O Flaherty, W. G. Thompson, 
J. Turner, L. F. White. 

15th Company Capt. W. N. Moorehouse, officer commanding; 
Lieuts. J. C. Hartley, F. McK. Garrison, C. E. Garneau, W. J. 
Hutchens, J. R. McLean, P. C. Mulholland. 

16th Company Lieut. E. W. Sanson, officer commanding; 
Lieuts. H. T. Logan, L. Gavreau, S. Johnston, B. C. Montagnon, E. L. 
Rainboth, A. Ritchie, W. H. Watson. 

Promotions in these companies were later to be confirmed in 
orders. 

Despite the fact that "Indirect Fire" was being discouraged at 
British Machine Gun Schools in Grantham, -England, and Camiers, 
France, faith in this method of fire support had been stoutly main 
tained by Colonel Brutinel and by Capt. H. V. Muerling, already 
referred to previously as the "gunnery" expert of the Emma Gees. 
It was not, nor had it been, extensively used but throughout the Com 
panies, officers but lately over from England and not a few of the 
veterans had a good knowledge of the methods of working out these 
fire orders. 

The Corps Commander s request for "proposals for machine gun 
covering and barrage fire" brought into being a school at Pernes 
where special training in an 8-day course was given on Indirect Fire 



VIMY RIDGE 61 

and subsidiary subjects. There began to creep into the machine gun 
language a lot of new "gunnery" terms. A considerable number of 
machine gunners were engineers of one sort and another and the 
simple formulas were merely a light lunch for them. Others wore 
their pencils to mere stubs as they laboriously worked over fire 
orders. 

Gradually into the sudden eruptions of concentrated artillery 
barrages that crashed the frosty quiet and comparative stillness 
of those Vimy nights, signallizing another sudden thrust by impudent 
raiding parties, there also crept the ringing chatter of machine gun 
barrage fire. It was somehow noticeable in an undertone of its own, 
despite the larger volume of sharp, successive barks from the 18- 
pounders and the more rounded voices of the "Hows." 

In addition to thickening up the box barrages of the artillery 
for these raids, machine guns were given their nightly allotment of 
harassing fire targets on cross roads and overland enemy carrying 
parties. While sited in defence positions, machine guns were co 
ordinated day and night on S.O.S. barrage lines, where they filled in 
gaps left by the artillery. 

Thus did Machine Gunners more definitely assume the role of 
light artillery. 

Fifty-five raids carried on during this "quiet winter of rest, in a 
great many of which machine gun barrages played an important part, 
not only cultivated a high degree of efficiency among officers and crews 
in the use of "Indirect Fire" methods but there also grew up in Bat 
talions and on into whole Brigades, a greater confidence in machine 
gun covering fire. 

The singing whine of a burst of machine gun fire overhead was 
no longer the signal for the infantryman, several hundred yards off, 
to duck behind the parados and curse a careless gunner under his 
breath. 

March ushered in a program of systematic destruction of dug 
outs, rearward positions, barb-wire entanglements and a continual 
rain of harassing fire. As an example of the sort of co-operation that 
was being built up in roles between the machine guns and artillery 
is the fact that while the latter pounded and smashed strongly-wired 
posts with their greater destructive power, the machine guns were 
given the task of preventing repairs being made and of hindering new 
work. 

For minus 30 days onwards, every effort was made in Divisions 
to increase the number of machine guns working in co-ordinated 
destructive shoots with trench mortars and artillery. Sixty-four guns 
by day and sixty-four by night were first employed on this strenuous 
task. 



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VIMY RIDGE 63 

However, difficulty was encountered by machine guns in meeting 
this continuous program. The life of a barrel for purposes of accu 
rate overhead fire was 15,000 rounds and since the demands for every 
sort of conceivable material at this time was so great, the harassing 
fire program had to be considerably curtailed on toward the end of 
March. 

Prisoners taken earlier in the month had testified that our 
machine gun harassing fire had kept down practically all overland 
movement and restricted carrying parties almost entirely to the 
trenches. After the machine gun harassing fire program had been cut 
down, Germans captured on April 1st said that reliefs and ration 
parties were again moving overland as far as Zwischen Stellunge, 800 
to 1,000 yards behind their own front line, without suffering any cas 
ualties from the reduced machine gun fire. Air photographs on the 
snow-covered ground confirmed these statements by the prisoners. 

The enormity of the whole preparations at Vimy, their marvelous 
and close fidelity to detail, had never before been attempted nor were 
they ever to be surpassed on any sector in which the limited offensive 
idea obtained. 

Incessant air photographing, bearings taken on gun flashes and 
every conceivable method of finding out "what was over the hill," all 
combined to keep the "Intelligence" picture right up to the very min 
ute. While tunnellers bent nightly to the arduaus task of boring three 
tunnels through the hard chalky soil up to the German front lines, 
Lieut.-Gen. Sir Julian Byng had a full-scale plan of the battlefield 
laid out near Houdain, with broad white tapes to mark the trenches, 
and flags of different colors to mark the boundaries and strong points 
in enemy defences. 

Already it had been decided that the machine guns would play 
a dual role. On January 19th, an outline of the machine gun scheme 
had been issued whereby it was detailed that "Mobile Guns" were to 
be detached to Brigades and operate in close liaison with the attacking 
infantry battalions, taking on direct targets where they might be 
found and then forming strong points for consolidation of the ground 
won. Barrage groups were named, their positions allotted. From 
then on the positions from which the barrages on the Black and Red 
Lines would be fired were improved and stored with ammunition. 
Forward dumps of S.A.A. were filled up. 

The Mobile Guns had trained with the infantry over the full scale 
model of the German trench system. In these exercises, repeated 
over and over again, every man was shown exactly where to go and 
what he was to do. The rate of progress was controlled by the ar 
tillery and machine gun barrage, represented by mounted men who, 
carrying flags, impersonated a screen of bursting shrapnel. By 



64 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

battalions, brigades and divisions, they advanced in a rehearsal to a 
scales that was entirely new to the Allied side of the Western Front. 

In this assembling of all the vast supply of materials for a mighty 
assault, the application of every possible scientific aid to a new phase 
of warfare, General Byng did not overlook a happy combination of 
psychology, the human element and good old-fashioned horse sense. 

Under him he had 97,184 of Canada s best. He handled them, not 
as so many regimental numbers, but took everyone into his con 
fidence as far as lectures, demonstrations and 40,000 especially pre 
pared maps could accomplish that end. It was a recognition of their 
general high standard of intelligence, their native initiative, to which 
the Canadians could not help but respond. 

The "Byng Boys" were born in that gesture. 

As an accompaniment to the dawning of all these new hopes 
among the Canadians, events were transpiring which were to restore 
a measure of confidence in the Higher British command a confidence 
more than a trifle shaken by events on the Somme. None of the costly 
efforts there had seemed to have repaid anything like the toll of cas 
ualties the Battles of the Somme so greedily took. The bitter dis 
appointment in France was reflected in the dismissal of Joffre and 
Foch. Before Joffre s dismissal he, with Haig, had planned an offen 
sive to open February 1st with the main blow falling between Loos 
and the Oise, and a subsidiary operation to the East of Rheims. Brit 
ish Headquarters had visualized a sustained summer offensive which 
would drive the enemy from his submarine bases in Flanders. Joffre 
had planned more "nibbling" tactics after the style of the Somme. 

General Nivelle, who succeeded to the French command, pooh- 
poohed such set-piece tactics. The motto of every commander was 
to be, "violence, brutalite et rapidite," and Nivelle s flair and his 
fluent vision of a German Army utterly defeated after 48 hours of 
intensive fighting caught the imagination of Premier Lloyd George, 
since risen to supreme political power on top of the terrific casualty 
figures which piled up on the Somme. 

Sir Douglas Haig, while not convinced by Nivelle s glowing op 
timism, on the suggestion of the British Premier agreed to a measure 
of control to be exercised over the British forces by the French and 
modified his plans. He had decided to attack south of the Scarpe 
extending down over the old Somme battlefields. When Hindenberg 
ordered his famous retreat to his new fortified line of Cambrai-St. 
Quentin, leaving behind a ravaged countryside to be known as the 
"Hindenberg Desert," 20 miles in depth, Sir Douglas Haig extended 
his proposed battle line to include Vimy Ridge. 

Nivelle prophesied that the Vimy attack would end in failure 
and disaster. However Haig had his way and Vimy was therefore 



VIMY RIDGE 65 

to be fought for the dual purpose of seizing ground of great tactical 
importance and providing a large scale diversion which, it was hoped, 
would draw a great many German reserves away from the impetuous 
thrust planned by General Nivelle on the Aisne. 

Briefly the Canadian plan of attack was that, for the first time 
in history and the last, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps were 
to attack simultaneously. On the right was the 17th British Corps 
with orders to advance while on the left was the 1st Corps which was 
to remain stationary. The operation was to be carried out in four 
stages, occupying successively the Black, Red, Blue and Brown lines. 
Owing to the importance of gaining early possesion of Hill 140, it was 
arranged that the Canadian Corps should push on to the Blue line, 
500 yards east of Thelus, with as short intermediate pauses as possible. 

The total of machine guns under the Canadian Corps for the 
operation was three hundred and fifty eight, made up as follows : 

16 Canadian Machine Gun Companies 256 

4 British M.G. Companies (5th British Division) 64 

1st C.M.M.G. Brigade 38 

358 

One hundred and four Mobile Guns were detailed to the attacking 
infantry. 

That left two hundred and thirty guns to be alloted for the 
machine gun barrage, since twenty-four guns were being held in 
Corps reserve. 

Owing to the great number of trenches to be captured and on 
account of the strength and commanding position of most of them, it 
was decided that machine gun supporting fire should be given the 
entire Corps at every step of the advance. 

A creeping machine gun barrage was arranged and fire organ 
ization tables were drawn up to correspond with the artillery barrage. 
In order to assist the Infantry in warding off possible enemy counter 
attacks, a protective machine gun barrage was to be established at 
each definite stage of the operation. Arrangements were also made 
for a final protective barrage to be fired during the early consolidation 
of the final objective. Divisions retained control of the guns covering 
their own sectors and this went down to Brigade. Thus, secondary 
targets could be allotted, when necessity arose, providing the final 
barrage was in no way interfered with. It was the primary con 
sideration. 

The supply of machine gun ammunition alone was a tremendous 
problem that had been efficiently tackled. Days before the show was 
to open the following amounts were provided at the gun positions and 



66 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

at forward dumps to be taken forward to the Blue and Brown Line 

batteries : 

1st Division Companies 1,408,000 rounds 

1,568,000 
1,000,000 
1,000,000 



Total for Barrage Batteries 4,976,000 rounds 



These amounts were for the first 24 hours of the operation. 
Mobile guns drew on a basis of 15,000 rounds per gun per day for 
three days. 

The handling of this vast amount of small arms ammunition had 
made necessary a call on the Infantry for carriers and they were 
allotted on the basis of 32 per company. They were trained with the 
crews for three weeks. 

On Saturday, April 7th, Corps operation orders announced that: 
"Zero hour is fixed for five-thirty a.m. (5.30 a.m.), April 9th, 1917." 
Zero had first been arranged for Sunday morning, but when the 17th 
Corps needed time to complete arrangements it was moved back 
24 hours. 

Easter Sunday presented a situation hardly in keeping with the 
traditional spirit of the Resurrection. A false calm brooded over the 
slopes of Vimy as Sunday night s darkness closed down. Through the 
darkness units went to their assembly points. There was no confusion 
no traffic jams. The attacking brigades lined the front line trenches 
in dead silence. Supporting brigades were in the tunnels. Mobile 
machine guns joined their designated battalions. Barrage crews, 
confident after their long winter of harassing fire, checked up on their 
night firing posts and anxiously checked up their watches. 

The minutes, then seconds, ticked away. 

Four seconds before zero hour, with the exception of the trench 
mortars, all the guns ceased firing. 

"As if some giant director had poised his baton at the stop while 
his orchestra was in the midst of a crescendo," said one description of 
this significant pause. 

Exactly at 5.30 every gun on the 12-mile front opened up. The 
earth trembled as the blind ends of the tunnels were blown up. To 
the German sentries and to gunners behind the ridge it must have 
looked as if the door of a giant furnace had suddenly been thrown 
open. 

The iron chatter of the 230 machine guns firing their first large- 
scale barrage in battle was drowned out in the gigantic uproar which 



VIMY RIDGE 67 

shattered eardrums, though here and there, as momentary pauses 
came, they could be heard. 

Into the dawn, on the heels of a barrage which moved ahead with 
smoothness and precision, swept the attacking battalions of the four 
divisions, numbered in order from the right of the Canadian attack. 

In 35 minutes the first objective on all divisional fronts was 

captured. 

Dazed and rocked by the fury of that first downpour of steel, the 
Germans made but a feeble reply at first. Artillery allotment per 
gun was 16 yards of front in the opening barrage. Each machine 
gun in the barrage scheme had 50 yards. 

Snow was falling as the brigades in rear leap-frogged over the 
attacking units but, despite the heavy going over the churned-up 
mud, the sweep of the four divisions kept its parade-like aspect and 
strictly to time schedule. 

By seven o clock two miles of the crest was in Canadian hands. 
Two hours later the final objectives on the easterly slope had been 
reached by all divisions except the 4th, which had been forced to 
traverse more broken country, where sterner resistance cropped up. 

Batter Trench, between Bauble and Black, was defended with 
tenacity against the assaults of the llth Brigade. It was not until 
late afternoon, when reserves were rushed up, that the enemy was 
finally driven out and back to Beggar Trench near the crest of Hill 145. 
Subject to vicious enfilade fire, the 3rd Division was forced to form 
a flank to the north. Trainloads of German reserves were rushed 
from Lens and Douai to counter-attack on this involved left flank but 
were repulsed and the 10th Brigade, originally held in reserve for an 
attack on the Pimple next day, pushed home the attack on Hill 145 
at the point of the bayonet. 

The mobile guns, jumping off with the Infantry, either in the 
first wave or the second, ran the gamut of varied fortunes. 

All the guns of the 1st Division reached their positions, as plan 
ned, in good time and without serious casualties. The 2nd and 3rd 
Companies operated with their brigades to capture the Red and Black 
objectives. The 1st Company went through to the final objective. 
To the 3rd Company each of the battalions had loaned a Colt gun 
so this brigade had 12 mobile guns for the actual assault. The Colt 
guns, however, were withdrawn after being used to consolidate the 
Black Line. They had captured seven German machine guns, how 
ever, so still had a profitable margin on the deal. 

The 2nd Division s mobile guns had a similar report to make as 
they swept forward with the attack. The 5th Company was on the 
flank, watchful for any signs of a counter-attack from Vimy Village 
and also to cover the Bonval Ravine. The 6th Company were right 



68 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

on scheduled time in their advance and along the way picked up two 
German machine guns, along with a large store of ammunition, and 
as they found numerous targets on the reverse slope of the Ridge 
during the afternoon these enemy guns came in exceptionally handy. 

The mobile guns of the 3rd Division, although not having so deep 
an advance as the most forward guns of the two right divisions, had 
much more difficult tasks to do, as it turned out. There was uncer 
tainty on the left flank owing to the stubborn resistance which was 
holding up the 4th Division and the right flank had the Bonval Ravine, 
a deep re-entrant into the Ridge, 200 to 300 yards wide, as a potential 
source of trouble. The ravine s steep sides were fringed with trees, 
giving excellent concealment, and lined with dugouts. 

The 8th Company, working with the C. M. R. Brigade, had two 
guns sited, covering Bonval Ravine in position, 50 yards east of the 
Lens-Arras road near the point where it bends eastwards along the 
north side of the Ravine towards Vimy Ridge. Soon after the guns 
were in position a group of 300 Germans were seen 100 yards away 
in the lower ground in front. These were immediately fired on and 
approximately 100 casualties inflicted. The remainder took shelter 
in the dugouts along the road beside the steep north side of the 
Ravine. While two guns were trained to sweep the dugout entrances, 
the Machine Gun officer and seven men went forward and bombed the 
dugouts, capturing 150 men, including six regimental officers and one 
staff officer. Another officer of the same company, with two other 
ranks, rushed a machine gun post concealed in the wooded high ground 
of the Ravine, capturing the gun and the three remaining members 
of the crew. They were helped by an Infantry Lewis gun crew 
threatening from the right, higher up the side of the Ravine. During 
the earlier morning the right four guns of the same company, as they 
topped the crest of the ridge and got their first full view of the vast 
Douia plain stretching away for miles to the east, had plenty of live- 
target practice. They scattered numerous infantry bodies and caused 
much confusion as German transports made quick dashes up the 
roads towards them in an attempt apparently to save as many stores 
as possible. 

In the afternoon, when the German shelling thickened up, a 
direct hit was made on one of the gun crews here and killed four of 
its members. One officer of this 6th Company trio was the lone officer 
left on the 4th C. M. R. Battalion front and helped organize the front 
line of the final objective while using his guns for covering purposes. 

The 7th Company kept pace and linked up in consolidation phases. 
As early as 8.30 a.m. one gun crew of this company overran its 
selected Strong Point position and got over the crest of the ridge. As 
they did so they caught several large groups of Germans retreating 



VIMY RIDGE 



69 




Headquarters, 4th Battalion C. M. G. C. 

toward Bloater Trench at the foot of the Ridge and did some fine 
execution. Enfilade fire from Hill 145 gave the left flank guns of this 
company many anxious moments. About noon hostile machine gun 
fire put one of the guns out of action. Two guns were later detached 
from "E" Barrage Battery to strengthen this threatened point. 

Only the mobile guns of the 12th Company were in action during 
the hard-won advance of the 4th Division. The guns of the 10th and 
llth Companies were kept throughout the day in their assembly 
positions and then at night sent up as defensive guns in rear of the 
Black objective. 

The 12th C. I. B. had two distinct tasks: the capture of the Black 
and Red objectives and securing of the left flank of the entire Corps 
attack. During the whole operation the brigade was subjected to a 
heavy enfilade fire from the flank as well as particularly stubborn 
resistance from the enemy in front, who were taking every advantage 
of the many natural features of the cut-up terrain in that area. 

The four right guns reached their designated "crater" positions 
before the Infantry, though leaving 30 minutes after the zero hour. 
They marched by compass, bearing direct to the spot. Two guns had 
fine targets as the Germans retreated. They had captured a German 
gun and 12 gunners before they dug in and got into action and the 
German gun was turned on its late compatriots. The other two guns 
bore too far left and downhill in the direction of Givenchy and suffered 



70 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

heavy casualties. The officer was among the seven wounded on one 
gun, the tripod of which was destroyed. The left flank guns had an 
unfortunate time. The officer (Hall) of one sub-section received five 
wounds in the head and body but kept going until too weak to go 
farther. Both tripods of this section were knocked out by shell fire 
and four other ranks killed and five wounded. One of the guns was 
carried forward by a lance-corporal, who found himself the only mem 
ber of the crew left when he reached the objective. There he placed 
himself under an officer of the 72nd Battalion and helped establish 
Infantry posts. Two guns were sent up at 10 a.m. from "M" Battery 
to No. 2 crater and did most effective work on targets presented by 
the Germans, who, fighting every step of the way, made breaks for 
positions in rear. 

The task of the batteries firing the Black and Red Line barrages 
was comparatively simple, with the exception of "G" Battery. That 
the barrage positions had been well camouflaged was proven by the 
few casualties sustained. Five batteries had no casualties. 

"G" Battery from the 15th Company had a more difficult task. 
They were firing a barrage for the capture of the Red Line only and 
their position was chosen in the German front line up to the right oi 
the sunken road leading out of Bruville St. Vaast in a north-easterly 
direction over the ridge. This position could not be occupied until 
after the German front line system of trenches was carried. Also, 
the guns had to be ready to open fire at zero plus 105. The officer in 
charge in a skillful reconnaisance discovered a gap in the hostile 
barrage as soon as it was laid down. Through it he led his battery, 
numbering 100, and arrived at his barrage position at zero plus 20, 
with the loss of one other rank, slightly wounded. All guns were in 
position and ready to fire one hour after zero. 

The task of the Blue and Brown Line batteries on the 1st and 
2nd Divisional fronts was a most difficult one and called for a very 
high degree of skill and leadership on the part of the officers and a 
maximum of determination and endurance on the part of all ranks. 

The eight Blue Line batteries, numbering from right to left, Yl, 
XI, Al, Bl, Cl, Dl, El and Fl, had all supported the capture of the 
Black objective. On completion of firing this barrage they moved 
forward under cover of our Red Line supporting fire to their Blue Line 
positions. During the pause of the Infantry on the Red Line emplace 
ments were dug, ammunition was brought up and the guns got ready 
to fire at zero plus 41/2 hours. 

Four of these batteries, XI, Al, Bl and Cl, carried out a second 
move forward to the Brown Line positions, X2, A2, B2, C2, situated 
about midway between the Red and Blue objectives. This move was 



VIMY RIDGE 71 

conducted in echelon, one battery at a time. The 5th Brown Line 
battery, Y2, moved direct to its Brown Line positions from the 
brigade assembly area and in line with the fire organization scheme, 
opened fire on their Brown Line targets. 

The four batteries fired two barrages and made two moves with 
equipment over rough, shell-torn ground and under trying weather 
conditions. It was arduous labor, if not spectacular. The total dis 
tance covered from the first to the third positions was between 3,500 
and 4,000 yards. 

Casualties in these guns were relatively light though the enemy 
protective barrage was getting reorganized and shelling was getting 
heavier. 

X2 Battery was the most unfortunate. It came under particu 
larly intense shelling. At one spot five other ranks were killed and 
three guns put out of action. Guns of other batteries were switched 
on to the targets these guns would have covered and the five remain 
ing guns speeded up their rate of fire to effect a balance for the loss. 

The efficiency of the communications organized in connection with 
the machine gun barrage effort was to be proven. And a new elas 
ticity in outlook between the purely infantry and light artillery role 
of machine guns in several incidents which saw a departure from the 
precise schedule of the operations. 

For instance, during the advance of the 1st Infantry Brigade 
through the Black and Blue objectives to their attack on the Blue 
and Brown Lines, considerable enemy sniping and machine gun fire 
was met with, coming from the 17th Corps front on the right. In 
order to stop this fire, which was causing heavy casualties, the 
Brigadier, seeing four guns of the 1st Company on their way to Y2 
Battery positions, stopped them. He asked for help in beating down 
this fire from the flank and the four guns went merrily into action. 
They subdued that fire and then took up the job of getting to their 
barrage position, where they joined the other four guns, already in 
position, in time to fire the Brown Line barrage. 

Again, when the Infantry were halted on the Red Line, a counter 
attack was threatened from the left of the 2nd Division front at the 
foot of Bonval Ravine. The G. O. C. 5th Brigade asked for a concen 
tration to be applied to this menacing area and the brigade barrage 
group commander had the fire of "Fs" Battery switched to this target 
and engaged it from zero plus 150 to zero plus 200 when word was 
received that the danger was apparently over. "Fs" Battery resumed 
its barrage fire on the Red Line protective barrage. 

The pack trains organized in each division had done their task 
extremely well. Far into the captured enemy ground they pushed 



72 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

and by mid-afternoon had established dumps; 400,000 rounds were 
packed up on the 1st Division front. 

In the 1st and 2nd Divisions the employment of infantry carriers, 
two per gun, and organized in sections, supplemented the work of the 
pack trains in this arduous, non-spectacular but very useful work. 

By nightfall the whole of Vimy Ridge in the areas of the 1st, 
2nd and 3rd Divisions were in our hands, but as the units consolidated 
there was no time to appraise the day s work. 

On the 4th Division front the enemy still held Hill 145 and most 
of the ground between the Black and Red objectives. A protective 
barrage of artillery and machine guns was established across the 
entire Corps front and answered several SOS calls. Harassing fire 
was carried out over the frontal areas. 

In a gallant night attack the 85th from Nova Scotia and the 47th 
Battalions attacked Brer Trench on the forward slope of the hill and 
by 6 a.m. of the 10th had consolidated the hard-won ground. At 3.15 
p.m. on the 10th the 10th C.I.B., which had been in reserve the previ 
ous day, launched its attack on Hill 145 and swept the Germans off 
this dominating feature. The 4th Division M. G. batteries fired their 
original schedule and repeated the experiences on the other divisional 
fronts, with the possible exception that helter-skelter targets bobbed 
up less frequently and it was by all means a stiffer show. 

The 10th C. I. B. had had little more than time to get its breath 
after the assault on Hill 145 before it was sent against its original 
objective the Pimple. The 24th Division, 1st Corps, on the left at the 
same time attacked Boise-en-Rache, immediately north of the Souchez 
River. The attack took place at 5 a.m. in the face of a blinding snow 
storm and a hail of well-organized fire. Well over their first con 
fusion, the Germans here offered stubborn resistance. Eight mobile 
guns of the brigade which went over with the attack got through 
with the loss of only one gun. Targets were not as plentiful for 
direct fire as they had been on the 9th, but the 10th Company guns 
made the best of what offered. 

On the same day that the Pimple was captured plans were issued 
for a further attack in conjunction with the 12th Corps on the right. 
Patrols had ascertained that the enemy was holding Vimy village 
and the Vimy-Farbus railway line in great strength. The date was 
not fixed but was likely to be on April 14th. 

The Germans anticipated this operation, however, by a hurried 
withdrawal on the 13th. Our line was advanced and by evening of 
the same day had been pushed out more than 1,000 yards east of the 
Ridge along the whole Corps front. The new advance took in the 
villages of Willerval, Vimy and Givenchy-en-Goelle, a line that at 



VIMY RIDGE 73 

this end of the ridge was not to change very substantially from that 
day until the word flashed out to some tired British Division, holding 
it on November llth, 1918, thta an Armistice had been signed. 

And that was the Battle of Vimy. 

It stood then, and does yet, as a model of preparation and 
achievement. 

After Vimy the Canadian Corps never looked back. It was to 
have a far greater significance, too, than the exultation of the moment. 

The cost in casualties had been, for the whole month of April, 
13,477 killed and woupded. At Ypres, in 1915, a single division had 
lost 6,000 in killed and wounded. For a small and insignificant stretch 
of ground on the Somme the toll paid by Canadians was 24,000 killed 
and wounded. 

The financial cost alone marked another stupendous stride in 
war. In ammunition, on the Canadian front alone, $17,000,000 worth 
of shells were exploded over the German lines between April 4th and 
10th, and a quarter of this vast fury was expended on April 9th. 

But in the valuation of the time and compared to other previous 
efforts, the cost was a low one. 

Numerically small in the number of men engaged in the whole 
operation, the Machine Guns came off splendidly when their casualty 
lists were mustered. Nine officers and 191 other ranks were killed 
and wounded. Since 51 other ranks were killed, the abnormally high 
percentage of approximately .26 had been reached. 

There at Vimy, up its slopes, on its crest and down the other 
side, was welded the Canadian Corps into a cohesive whole. 

In this welding the work of the machine guns played no small 
part. 

In its turn, the machine gun service itself was to be welded into 
a new structure. Machine gun methods of the Canadian Corps became 
at once the object of study by staff representatitves and machine gun 
experts of the British and French armies. 

On January 15th, 1917, Lieut.-Gen. Sir Julian Byng had made 
application for the establishment of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps. 
The entire personnel of 222 officers and 5,943 other ranks of the 
machine gun service, undergoing separate and different forms of 
training from the Infantry, were still on the strength of infantry 
units. Questions of seniority and promotion were settled by infantry 
lists. 

The serious conditions are clearly indicated in the Corps Com 
mander s letter asking for authority to form a Machine Gun Corps 
on similar lines to that of the British Service: 

"The situation of the Machine Gun Companies serving with the 
Canadian Corps as regards supply of personnel, condition of service 



74 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

and promotion is highly unsatisfactory and has resulted in extrava 
gance, inefficiency and discontent. 

"To remedy this serious state of things the creation of a Canadian 
Machine Gun Corps should be undertaken forthwith and I attach the 
greatest importance to this step being taken without delay. 

"As things are at present, the Machine Gun Companies of the 
Canadian Corps must inevitably break down during active and pro 
longed operations." 

Therefore Vimy took on especial significance to the Machine Gun 
Service. For on April 16th, 1917, just a week after the assault on 
the supposedly impregnable ridge was launched, the Canadian 
Machine Gun Corps was authorized. 

It was to build up a tradition of its own in the stirring, anxious 
months to come. 

But never was the machine gun to present a better-balanced 
picture of its potentialities in attack than it did as the forbidding, 
snow-flecked dawn of April 9th broke to bare the outlines of the 
coveted ridge, against which, in a matter of moments, Canada s 
assaulting legions were to be let loose. 

The echoes of Vimy had no more than died away than it was 
generally realized that a much deeper advance could have been made, 
had full advantage been taken of the German demoralization. 

However, the Canadian Corps did not have much leisure time 
for vain regrets. On April 28th another attack was launched on an 
eight-mile front by British troops and the 2nd Canadian Division. 
Canadians captured the Village of Arleux in bitter fighting and pene 
trated 1,800 yards on a front of 2,500 yards. On the 3rd of May the 
1st Division, in an attack which saw both Imperial and Australian 
Divisions attacking farther south, stormed Fresnoy. Fresnoy hap 
pened to be hosts to the 15th Reserve Division of the Imperial German 
Army, which was contemplating an attack for a later hour that morn 
ing, but the Canadians swept them out of the village and held it 
against repeated counter-attacks. These attacks were designed to 
create a diversion to aid the French troops still pushing a fruitless 
attack on the Aisne. 

Steady pressure which was to be maintained the next few months 
was to develop into an investment of Lens by the Canadian Corps and 
in contrast with the sharp, decisive blow which won them the prized 
ridge, was to prove a costly business. 

On June 3rd, in the moonlight of the earl ymorning hours, the 
4th Division thrust south of the Souchez River from Bois de Riaumont 
in the direction of La Coulette and Avion. They captured La Coulette, 
but in the face of determined enemy counter-attacks following a con- 



VIMY RIDGE 75 

centrated rain of high explosive shells, they were forced to retreat 
to their original trenches. 

On June 8th and again on June 19th Canadians aided Imperial 
Brigades in capturing ground and on June 25th made a very realistic 
feint as the British captured Hill 65. On June 27th the 4th 
Division captured Eleu dit Leuvette and this set the stage for the 
same division the following day to go for Avion, southern suburb of 
Lens. The Canadians used flame projectors for the first time and, 
under cover of an intense barrage, the attacking brigades faced a 
driving rain and flooded areas to reach the village. It was tightly- 
locked fighting, as intensely waged as any fighting of the war, but the 
Canadians hung grimly on to Avion and registered another 500-yard 
bite into German territory on a mile of front. Machine gunners sent 
up to consolidate with the advancing battalions ran into hand-to-hand 
fighting. In one instance the Germans came over and took two guns, 
but the officer of the half section organized his own crews and, borrow 
ing some infantry bombers, recaptured his guns. 

These attacks were wearing down the Germans, but were also 
taking heavy toll of the Canadians. 

Meantime, on June 19th, Sir Arthur Currie was appointed to 
succeed Gen. Sir Julian Byng. On July llth the Canadians were 
honored by a visit from His Majesty King George V, who saw the 
men at their ordinary tasks. To end his day with the Canadians, King 
George conducted the ceremony of knighting Sir Arthur Currie in the 
midst of a scarred landscape which bore eloquent testimony of the 
bitter fighting which marked the winning of Vimy Ridge. 

There was a slight lull in the fighting. Towards the end of July 
and in the first weeks of August an increase in artillery firing was 
noted. Already an attack was planned, but it had been held up. 
Finally, on August 15th, it was launched, the 1st, 2nd and 4th 
Divisions sweeping forward in the direction of Hill 70 under the pro 
tection of one of the most intense barrages yet devised. 

Machine gunners not only thickened up this barrage as they 
had done at Vimy but again sent mobile guns forward with the attack 
ing infantry. 

It took only sixteen minutes to capture the first objective a 
general advance of 400 yards but it was a bitter hand-to-hand 
struggle from there on with the German machine gunners from their 
heavily-cemented pill boxes exacting a heavy price for every inch the 
Canadians took as they edged their way to, up and over Hill 70. 

On the night of the 15th-16th the Germans launched five separate 
counter-attacks which were beaten off. 

On the 16th, as the 4th Division attacked Lens proper, they were 



76 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

met by a German force which itself was preparing to attack at that 
same time. Reports say the two opposing forces met in the open, 
boxed in by their own barrages. There was a general melee in which 
the bayonets of the Canadians came into their own. The Germans 
fought stubbornly and finally held on the outskirts of Lens itself. 

Counter-attacks on almost successive days against the Canadians 
witnessed bitter fighting but prompt artillery and machine gun 
barrages presented an impenetrable barrier, though the Germans 
came on bravely enough. 

From the front line to the support lines, from where indirect fire 
was used back to groups assigned to barrage tasks, the guns of the 
various Machine Gun Companies were scattered, but reports are sparse 
in details. Some got off lightly but others suffered severe casualties. 

The 3rd C. M. Company report says, in part, of August 15th : 

"(12.10 p.m.) Enemy launched counter-attack. Seven of our 
guns opened fire with excellent results, enemy being seen to fall in 
groups. S. A. A. expended by our guns was 4,250 rounds ; 500 rounds 
were fired by the captured German gun. Attack was broken up with 
heavy loss to enemy. 

"(7.00 p.m.) Enemy launched second counter-attack and suc 
ceeded in advancing to within 25 yards of one of our guns in S. P. 7 
and endeavored to bomb same but were driven off with heavy loss. 
Our guns in S. P. 7 had exceptionally good targets." 

This company had 12 mobile guns with the 13th, 14th and 15th 
Battalions and casualties by midnight were approximately 15 other 
ranks with one gun knocked out by shell fire. 

The 8th M. G. Company, after a terse summary, states its casual 
ties were two officers and 29 men, most of whom were gassed. Most 
of the men were gassed more or less but did not go out. One gun 
was destroyed by shell fire. S. A. A. expended by the 16 guns was 
360,000 rounds. 

We ll take a report from the 4th Division, from the llth Com 
pany in this case. 

Of the 15th of August this Company matter-of-factly reports: 

"Enemy projected quantity of his shells from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., 
making atmosphere very dense with gas. This was followed by bom 
bardment of H. E. shells from 2 a.m. until 4 a.m. At 4.25 a.m. our 
guns opened heavy barrage fire in conjunction with the attack of our 
divisions on the left. At 8.25 a.m. our guns moved forward and took 
part in the attack by the llth C. I. B. on the Green Grassier and 
Aconite Trench. Continuous firing up until 12 noon against enemy 
counter-attacks." 

Another sentence disposes of the events of the 16th. 



VIMY RIDGE 77 

Here and there in the midst of routine details a report will be 
varied by conclusions as in the case of a Divisional Company which 
had used trench slits. Of these it says : 

Trench slits again proved satisfactory, although the men suf 
fered more hardships than would have been the case if the trenches 
had been utilized, chiefly owing to the fact that they were unable to 
move about. After moving into slits before zero hour, camouflage 
was spread over positions and no movement was allowed during the 
day. During the 10 days these slits were occupied batteries suffered 
only two casualties and no direct hits were obtained. On the other 
hand, a unit of the Division on our left in a trench some 150 yards 
from the slits suffered many casualties in two or three days." 

In these hurrying post-war days machine gunners who grow 
impatient at the momentary delays of life should have an effective 
brake on such growing impatience if they cast back in memory to the 
cramped vigils of days and nights in these slits, when only a minimum 
of movement was possible and that minimum only at the cost of many 
slow contortions. 

In this same report, also, a little esprit de corps creeps in. 

"In all cases," this report mildly exults, "batteries answered SOS 
signals from one to four minutes ahead of the Artillery." 

This indicates that the machine gunners were beginning to feel 
far from apologetic about their role as a light artillery in the barrage 
schemes. 

On August 23rd, just before dawn, the Canadians launched their 
attack on the Green Grassier, giant slag heap which barred their 
entry into Lens from the south. The huge pile was a labyrinth of 
trenches and machine gun emplacements, but the Canadians carried 
these with a rush. The slag heap was a maze of tunnels, too, down 
which the Canadians bombed their way. It proved a fitting climax 
to the siege of Lens for there was no quarter asked or given. However, 
after holding on all night the Canadians were forced to relinquish 
what they had won next day, as a German counter-attack swarmed 
over in such strength that it forced a stubborn retreat back down the 
smashed trenches. 

This brought to a close the Canadian attempts to wrest Lens from 
the Germans. Casualties for July and August were now listed at 
10,746. In addition, the nature of the fighting had imposed a heavy 
strain on all ranks. 



BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE 

CHAPTER IV. 

WARNED early in September by Gen. Sir Henry Home, com 
mander of the 1st Army, that they were likely to be detached 
and sent to Flanders to take part in the main British thrust being 
made there, it came as no surpirse to the Canadians when by mid- 
October the 3rd and 4th Divisions were already in the van of the 
movement which was to take the whole Corps northwards, back to 
Belgium. 

They were headed back to the very salient where the 1st Division 
had won imperishable fame and to an area that had seen the 2nd and 
then 3rd Division, each in turn, offered to the holocaust of modern 
war, out of which they came, maimed but never broken and tempered 
as with steel to an added hardness which three years and a half had 
shown the gods of war demanded in ever increasing degree. Even 
the 4th Division had had its first peek inside the theatre of war as 
it was gently initiated into trench tours just to the south of the grim 
salient to which all were now pointing. 

Started on July 31st after numerous, unavoidable delays, the 
Third Battle of Ypres, as this offensive of 1917 was to be known, had 
been raging with ever-increasing intensity for two months, when the 
movement of the Canadians to the north began. 

Even in the midst of their own immediate and pressing troubles 
in front of Lens, Canadians had followed the fortunes of the Imperials, 
Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans to the north in the 
salient as daily the toll of comparatively shallow advances strength 
ened the claim of Ypres and its surrounding area as the "Graveyard 
of an Empire." They had learned to read between the lines of war 
dispatches as they perused them in trench or billet. They had no 
illusions regarding what lay at the end of this trek north. The most 
imaginative and morbid of speculative flights were to fall far, far 
below the most comfortable, "cushy" levels of realization. 

The fourth British attack had been started on October 4th. 
Despite another downpour of the rain that had been falling almost 
incessantly since July and had long ago rendered the whole salient 
but one vast quagmire, the assault made remarkable headway and 
British and Australian troops, at a great cost in lives, wrested another 
3,000 yards of muddy desolation from the Germans. They captured 
Zonnebeke, they reached Poelcappelle and the higher land at Brood- 



BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE 79 

seinde, and on the right they pushed up the valley, where runs the 
Weiltje-Passchendaele road, and ran their line of connected shell holes 
up beyond the Gravenstafel cross roads and Abraham Heights to 
Berlin Wood. But they were short some 3,000 yards of their original 
objective, the Village of Passchendaele itself which hung on the crest 
of the low ridge to which it gave its sombre name a ridge that looked 
little more than a ripple in the flatness of this sodden Belgian land 
scape but yet gave dominance over the plain stretching away toward 
Roulers, important railway centre. 

At a terrific cost in lives, under conditions that were always to 
remain a monument to British courage, to bulldog tenacity, the line 
had now been established along the main series of ridges for 9,000 
yards from the starting point at Mount Sorrell. 

The operations had first been launched with a vision of sweeping 
the Germans off this system of ridges, sending them pell-mell over 
the plains approaching Roulers and thrusting on to clear them out of 
their Flemish bases and cut their communications to their submarine 
bases on the coast. 

What had been conceived in the dry months as a tremendous two- 
week smash had now prolonged itself into two months of battering 
against two foes mud and the Germans. Even had the weather 
been normal, the newly-devised system of elastic defence based on 
heavily-armored pill-boxes, commandingly placed and which were 
impervious to direct hits by 12-inch shells, would have given the 
Germans an even chance in the defence of these low, sprawling ridges. 
With the clinging, slimy mud as an ally the Germans had slowed the 
operation down to a soggy crawl. 

But even if two months of continual rain had shrunken the 
original conception down to trench raid proportions, yet there were 
still presented weighty reasons why the British should keep the 
initiative. 

Seemingly overwhelming disasters in Russia and Italy made the 
grim necessities of the salient, and finally its climax, Passchendaele, 
look microscopic by comparison but no less forbidding for all of that. 
The weakened morale of the French further fanned the urgency and 
a continuation of the "limited operations" were still more necessary 
to focus still more German attention while the Cambrai "surprise" of 
November 20th was still simmering. 

On October 9th the British had continued their push, reaching 
Houlthulst Forest, the final objective on the north, but the assault 
of October 12th, farther south, sent off after 48 hours more down 
pour, completely bogged down in impassable swamps and was 
abandoned. 

To keep the enemy s attention two more weeks and to shove him 



80 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

out of Passchendaele and off the final ridge were the twofold reasons 
which diverted the Canadians from their planned attack at Sallau- 
mines and routed them to the north for this final smash at the salient. 

And so on October 18th Gen. Sir Arthur Currie took over com 
mand of the Passchendaele front. Though he had been represented 
as offering alternative action for his Corps to the British higher com 
mand, once committed to the task, the Canadian Corps commander, 
as far as was humanly possible and within the limited time at his 
disposal, made sure that everything that foresight and preparation 
could do to make the operation a success must be pushed through. 
Those preparations cost lives but ultimately they saved many. 

Plank roads on fascines were pushed out across the slimy terrain ; 
duckboards that were to offer precarious footing but were to be neces 
sarily vital, even if narrow, arteries carrying food and .ammunition 
up to the front, were assembled in large quantities. Light railways 
were speedily laid to ensure the rapid distribution of the huge quan 
tities of shells and material needed. All this vital work was carried 
on under constant shell-fire of the back areas and constantly recurring 
bombing raids from the air, both day and night, for a new note of 
defiance, even aggressiveness was apparent from the German side 
as news of fresh Russian and Italian disasters inspired them to new 
effort. 

The 10th Machine Gun Company (Major James Britton) was the 
first Canadian unit to take over the line, relieving the 10th and llth 
Australian Companies 16 guns. Typical of many officers who had 
been fed into the 4th Division as a leavening of experience, it was 
peculiarly fitting that the 0. C. of the 10th should have this honor of 
leading the first M. G. unit back into an area which echoed the tramp 
ing feet of those survivors of the Second Battle of Ypres, of which 
he was one, as a sergeant in the machine gun section of the gallant 
5th Battalion. 

By the 22nd the two-division relief was complete. The 4th 
Division had the 10th and 16th Companies in the line and the 3rd 
Division were supported by the 7th and 15th. 

The preparations for the opening attack, planned for four days 
later, went on feverishly. Into the comparatively small confines of 
the ever-narrowing salient were poured supplies of men and material 
that were staggering in round figures. 

In general the plans for employment of machine guns were to 
be those of Vimy with only minor exceptions. Again they were to 
assume the roles of barrage and mobile guns but with the addition 
this time of "Sniping Sections" of four guns each, one or two of which 
were to be allotted to each divisional front. 

Always the "human pack mules" of the front line areas, the 



BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE 81 

machine gunners were to face in the next few grisly weeks, conditions 
which would seem beyond human endurance and stamina as they 
struggled with their heavier equipment through dragging mud, 
plunged into bogs, sprawled into shell-holes filled waist, and sometimes 
shoulder-high with water and man-handed into position, the ammuni 
tion which their weapons so rapaciously devoured. They envied for 
the moment the self-contained readiness of the more lightly-loaded 
infantry soldier for instant battle. 

In fact there were times the gunners envied the mules. 

A No. 1 gunner in a 4th Division Company, for instance, had a 
one-sided monologue that he used to employ against passing mules 
and when he caught one standing well, that was so much the better. 

"Slackers, conchies," he would spit at them in mock viciousness, 
as with heavy Vickers tripod slung over his shoulder he might be 
passing "trains" of the patient "mokes" from whom the heaviest and 
nearest explosions brought only a protesting twitching of the long 
ears. 

"Think you re carrying a load," he would harangue the mule in 
a tone of high scorn. "You slacker, you nice solid roads to walk on 
no shell holes to fall into and call yourself a pack animal!" 

"Look at me, moke," showing the unconcerned and unimpressed 
"moke" the tripod; "how d you like to lug that through the mud?" 

"Come from Missouri, do you? Well, you gotta show me," would 
be the No. 1 gunner s parting and most withering shot. 

This monologue never failed to get a laugh though most of the 
grins were mud-caked at Passchendaele. 

Every unit had these lads, whose drollery kept a balance of sane- 
ness in the hottest spots. More often than not they did not wear 
stars or chevrons. In fact, they were quite often overlooked when 
the decorations were being passed out. Yet Passchendaele especially 
needed this spirit, which could pluck a jest out of the very air which 
was so oppressive and menacing and death-laden. 

As at Vimy, divisional pack trains were again formed and were 
to do highly useful work. At Vimy, however, they had been able to 
establish dumps almost at the positions themselves. In the salient, 
forced to keep to the solid footing of what were once called roads, 
they could only get up to very definite points owing to the intense 
shelling. Much of the huge supply of 1,500,000 rounds of S. A. A. 
assembled for each Division had therefore to be man-handled by the 
gunners and the infantry carrying parties which, once more, had 
been detailed to this task. 

In the few days preceding the attack itself machine guns in 
the line carried out a program of indirect harassing fire and the 



82 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

barrage positions were completed under conditions that baffle descrip 
tion. The artillery farther back had little or no protection and were 
dug in in the open. Trying to get a solid platform for the barrage 
machine guns in the slimy ooze was a hard, trying task. 

The battle order for the first attack found the 4th Division 
attacking on the Canadian right, with the 1st Australian Division on 
their flank. The 4th was to attack with one brigade the 10th while 
the 3rd Division was using a two-brigade front and employing the 
9th and 8th C. I. B s. On the left flank of the Canadian Corps bound 
ary was the 63rd Naval Division. The Canadian frontage gave the 
two Divisions slightly over 3,000 yards at the jumping-off line, extend 
ing roughly from the Passchendaele-Zonnebeke Road to Wallemolen. 
They had as their objectives Hillside Farm, Heine House, Augustus 
Wood, Lamkeek, Bellevue Spur, Wolfe Copse and the slightly higher 
ground to the north-west. 

Sixteen mobile guns in all were attached to the Divisions for the 
whole attack and in some cases the infantry had detailed sections for 
the local protection of the machine guns while in consolidation posi 
tions. The 10th Company (Major Britton) and the 9th Company 
(Major McFaul) provided the mobile guns as well as the new innova 
tion the three "Sniping Batteries." The 4th Division used only one 
of these four-gun batteries. The 3rd ordered two up. 

Eighty guns in all were given the task of laying down a support 
ing barrage to fit into the artillery s fire scheme. Five eight-gun 
batteries were allotted to each divisional front, on the basis of one 
gun to every 30 yards of frontage. Positions for these extended, 
roughly, from Abraham Heights on the right to the northern slopes 
of Gravenstafel Spur. 

In the gray dawn of October 26th, at exactly 5.40, thousands of 
guns along the 10-mile front rolled out their deafening thunder to 
herald the attack. Out-gunned as they were to be many times before 
they left the salient a few weeks hence, the Canadian gunners 
shouldered their full share of one of the most terrific, most cruelly 
concentrated and most intense artillery duels in all the history of the 
Western Front. It seemed as if nothing could possibly live as the 
gunners from both sides searched up and down whole areas in a 
scientific hunt for victims. Gradually the volume of the German 
guns grew perceptibly less and as the attacking brigades pushed off 
into the sea of shell-churned mud, superiority was definitely with the 
British gunners. 

Waist-deep in mud, the attacking brigades struggled forward. 
The 10th Brigade wallowed ahead and won their objectives after sharp 
fighting, especially fronting Crest Farm and Deck Wood, from where 
a perfect hail of machine gun fire was poured into their struggling 



BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE 83 




The Machine Guns at Paschendaele 

ranks. On the extreme right the 10th got as far as Decline Copse 
and Hillside Farm, Heine House and Augustus Wood were gathered 
in as the brigade went beyond its objectives to Deck Wood. 

But on the left it was a different story. Crossing the swollen 
Ravebeek stream at "Fleet Cottages," 1,000 yards beyond Graven- 
stafel, the 8th and 9th Brigades were stopped in temporary confusion 
by a withering machine gun fire and by the havoc of the German 
barrage. When the original attack on Bellevue was halted, Capt. 
Chris O Kelly of the 52nd Battalion won a V. C. as by his skill and 
determination he advanced his command over 1,000 yards unsupported 
by artillery barrage and took the enemy position on the hill by storm 
and then organized a series of attacks on pill boxes, which resulted in 
the capture of six and their stubborn, courageous garrisons, together 
with 10 machine guns. While both right and left the objectives had 
been reached, one pill-box known as "Snipe Hall" had successfully 
withstood all concentrated artillery fire and direct assault and here 
the line between the 8th and 9th Brigades presented a sharp cleavage. 
All attempts to dent back this salient in our lines were to fail for four 
days as elements of the llth Bavarian Division put up one of the 
stoutest defences ever offered by German troops. 

Since garrisons of the pill-boxes fought to the bitter end and 



84 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

even those isolated shell-hole garrisons knew they were hopelessly 
fastened in the mud, targets of opportunity during the attack for the 
machine guns were mighty few. But the principle of this elastic 
defence plan of the Germans was to provide our mobile and sniping 
batteries with their real and effective role as the elastic defense, 
giving away before the first onslaught, was bounced back by counter 
attacks in force and with a determination, lately lacking in German 
counter-attacks elsewhere. 

On the extreme right Lieut. Hugh Aird had placed his two 
guns in a sunken road 200 yards to the right of the Zonebeeke- 
Passchendaele Road so as to cover the right flank and the low ground 
to the left of the railway in the neighborhood of Vienna Cottage. The 
other two guns, under Corp. Carey, were sited in front of Hillside 
Farm in the centre of the 46th Battalion frontage to the left of the 
Passchendaele Road and looking to the right flank. 

Lieut. Aird s guns were handled with the utmost skill and daring 
and did fine execution as the German counter-attack was launched 
at 4.40 p.m. As the enemy opened a terrific bombardment on the 
sunken road where the guns were, Lieut. Aird sent all the gunners 
to the junction of the sunken road with the main Passchendaele Road, 
where there was less shelling and more shelter. He himself, along 
with Corp. Thursby, remained at the guns. The Germans were seen 
massing for the attack in a field near Vienna Cottage about 200 yards 
off. Both guns came into action, scattering the Germans and causing 
many casualties. Lieut. Aird s gun was put out of action as a large 
shell exploded close to the gun and he joined Sergt. Thursby. The 
German counter-attack kept developing and they started advancing 
in extended order. Shells were falling so close that on hard ground 
nothing above the ground level could have lived, but the mud proved 
the salvation in its way of this gun crew, although mud also in the 
space of a few minutes was to put the gun out of action. It could still 
fire single shots but Lieut. Aird, realizing the danger of being cut off 
from the left, moved the gun back when the Germans were within 100 
yards and mounted it near Hillside Farm. Corp. Carey with the other 
two guns, having been killed, the three guns were dug in defensive 
positions. Lieut. Aird was unfortunately killed the same night during 
one of the frequent bombardments the Germans laid down with so 
much venom. 

On the 3rd Division front, where the fight was more bitter, 
machine gunners had many difficult moments. Two guns with the 
58th Battalion were out of action and only the officer and two other 
ranks left when the battalion resumed its attack in the afternoon. 
Two of the four guns with the 43rd were put out of action early, but 
the other two not only formed a rallying point when the line was with- 



BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE 85 

drawn on the right in the morning set-back but with a little group 
of infantrymen holding fast inflicted severe losses on the Germans, 
who attempted to reorganize 250 yards from the gun positions. It 
was in-fighting with a vengeance. The officer, wounded earlier in the 
attack, did not leave until the guns were consolidated and No. 1 gun 
ners carried on. At 10 a.m. they caught two companies of Germans on 
the Weiltje Road in a perfect field of fire and dispersed them and they 
threw confusion into the Germans assembling for the counter-attack 
later to be launched at 4 p.m. from Meetoseele and Furst Farm. When 
the actual counter-attack came these two guns played like a hose on 
the Germans struggling ahead in the mud in extended order. 

Believing as men of the 4th C. M. R. filed back through his posi 
tions that they were making an unauthorized withdrawal though they 
had been ordered by their Company commander to swing back their 
flank, the M. G. officer in charge of the other two guns of the 9th 
Company collected about two platoons, led them forward to a com 
manding position and proceeded with consolidation. When two 
platoons of the 1st C. M. R. were sent up as reserves the position was 
turned over and, as established and consolidated, was thereafter held. 
The G. O. C. 8th Brigade asked for four more guns for left flank pro 
tection but these didn t have time to get suitable fields of fire before 
the German counter-attack was launched. 

The three sniping batteries met with varying fortunes. The 10th 
Brigade section were able to support the 3rd Division attack in the 
afternoon by firing on Meetcheele and Graf Wood. With the nearby 
battery from the 9th, both were heavily shelled. Two guns of the 
other sniping battery from the 9th Company were destroyed and in 
the temporary withdrawal of the morning the remaining two took 
part. Later they were taken back to the original positions to con 
solidate a part of the line that remained a danger spot for four days. 

The barrage batteries had escaped lightly in the matter of casual 
ties but had had a very strenuous time. On the 4th Division front 
the M. G. barrage responded to the SOS as the German counter-attack 
was launched at 4.40 p.m., some minutes before the artillery answer 
came. 

The G. 0. C., 10th C. I. B., in his report spoke in the highest terms 
of the M. G. fire developed so rapidly. He wrote in his report: 

"The barrage work of all Machine Guns was particularly evident 
during the counter-attack on the 26th instant, when they responded imme 
diately to the SOS and caused considerable loss to the attacking forces 
during the period the artillery failed to respond." 

One gun was knocked out in the barrage group of the 3rd Division 
but was quickly replaced from the Advanced Armourer s shop. The 
forward position of the latter was to be of immense and immediate 



86 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

help in other contingencies that the conditions of the battle were to 
produce. The Machine Guns covered the afternoon attack, carried 
out area shoots where the enemy were reported massing and sent 
during the day half a million menacing, zinging messages toward the 
Hun lines. 

Guns in barrage positions carried out harassing programs on the 
next three days and nights after reliefs had been made. On the night 
of the 27th - 28th the 4th Division batteries furnished a barrage for 
the 44th Battalion s successful attack on Decline Copse, an important 
position on the extreme right flank. Two guns, one from the 12th 
Company and one from the 16th, went forward with this attack. 

On the morning of the 29th the P. P. C. L. I s drove forward over 
500 yards of terrible ground to surround and capture Snipe Hall and 
its garrison and thus straighten out the line which this pill-box had 
held at bay in the previous operation. 

The swollen Ravebeek divided the 12th C. I. B., the attacking 
brigade on the 4th Division front, from the 7th C. I. B. in the centre 
and the 8th C. I. B. on the left flank. 

Ten mobile guns went forward with the 12th C. I. B. on the 4th 
Division front, four from the 12th Company and six from the 16th. 
The 7th Company provided four and the 8th Company two mobile 
guns for the 3rd Division battalions. 

The sky was clear for once and the moon full as the attacking 
battalions assembled for the attack during the late hours of the 29th 
and the early morning hours of the 30th. The shelling was constant 
and destructive. 

Towards zero hour 5.40 a.m. the weather turned to a cold, chill 
wind and rain fell. 

With slight variations tragic especially in the case of the 
Princess Patricias the attacking battalions started for their objec 
tive. The barrage lift was fifty yards every four minutes a rate of 
750 yards an hour, and even this crawling pace was fast enough. The 
German counter-barrage came down three minutes after zero hour 
and exacted the first toll on the struggling attackers. 

The 4th Division, after hard, stubborn fighting, broke through 
the German main line of resistance and by 6.35 a.m. all objectives 
were taken. The 72nd Battalion by a brilliant flanking movement 
captured Deck Wood with its German garrison and Crest Farm fell 
to the men of the Green Patch. Early in the day the G. O. C. 12th 
C. I. B. called for four more guns for right flank protection and these 
came from the 12th Company. Two of the guns with the 85th Bat 
talion were discovered by low-flying German planes which swept our 
planes out of the air this day and were knocked out by direct hits 
shortly after. Four guns under Lieut. Montagnon of the 16th Com- 



BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE 87 

pany were first used for indirect fire to a flank and then two were 
taken up for consolidation in a commanding position at Crest Farm. 
These were in position at 7.30 a.m. They were on the forward slope 
of the crest with the Germans but 200 yards away. The officer fear 
lessly exposed himself, says an account, to enemy machine gun and 
rifle fire while moving about, cheering his crews. Later he was 
severely wounded by shell-fire but crawled to a gun and refused to 
leave it, believing the Germans were going to counter-attack. He was 
carried out by a stretcher party but died two weeks later in hospital, 
being post-humously awarded the Military Cross. Command of this 
officer s guns fell upon Sergt. Crites, who carried on in succeeding 
days with courage and determination. 

The 3rd Division was again to meet with exceptionally stubborn 
resistance. Meetcheele was the key to the defences fronting the 3rd 
and in addition to the pill-boxes the Germans had machine guns in 
shell holes and snipers in pairs in the same cover and they poured a 
devastating fire into the scattered ranks of the attacking battalions. 
The 5th C. M. R. on the extreme left, wading through morass and 
swamp, went forward to Source and Vapour Farms and secured a 
footing in Vanity House. On the left, the 63rd Imperials could not get 
ahead and fought with one flank exposed. The Pats added another 
stirring but sombre page to their marvelous record in their struggle 
over 1,000 yards of slowly rising ground, for every step of which 
advance they paid a terriffic price. The 49th, on its left, was sharing 
that cost, stiffened by the 7th Company machine guns. Headed direct 
for the fortified positions on Meetcheele Spur, which were spurting 
a continuous hail of destruction, only two officers were left in the two 
leading Pats companies. 

"At a moment," writes Ralph Hodder-Williams, historian of the 
Princess Pats vivid history, "when it seemed the line must waver or 
break utterly, appeared Lieut. Hugh McKenzie, D.C.M., of the Brigade 
(7th) Machine Gunners (himself an old No. 3 Company man) and 
Lieut. J. M. Christie, D.C.M., and Sergt. G. H. Mullin, M.M., of the 
Regimental snipers. While Christie made a rush forward on the left, 
found a good position and covered the advance with his rearly marks 
manship, McKenzie dashed from shell hole to shell hole rallying the 
survivors for a last effort and leading them toward the pill-box. Mc 
Kenzie was killed at the head of the men he had inspired with his 
own magnificent courage, but while he and his party drew the fire, 
Mullin was crawling up the slope and he actually performed the 
incredible feat of taking the pill-box single-handed. He rushed a 
sniper s post in front and destroyed the garrison with bombs and 
crawling on to the top of the pill-box shot the two machine gunners 
with his revolver. Sergt. Mullin then rushed to another entrance 



88 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

and compelled the garrison of ten to surrender. His gallantry and 
fearlessness were witnessed by many and, although rapid fire was 
directed upon him and his clothes riddled by bullets, he never faltered 
in his purpose and he not only helped to save the situation but also 
indirectly saved many lives. 

"So it was that Lieut. McKenzie, D.C.M., and Sergt. Mullin won 
the first Victoria Crosses awarded the Patricias in the war." 

The Pats claim to Lieut. McKenzie may be well understood. 

The account given of the exploit by Corporal T. Hampson of the 
7th Company in its essential details tells much the same story. This 
N. C. 0. later established his two guns to the right of the Weiltje 
Road, about midway between Bellevue and Meetcheele, where he could 
command the left flank. The two guns under Sergt. Howard (later 
killed) suffered heavily in casualties as they followed the centre of 
the attack. At night there were but four men left with the two guns. 
In fact, the four mobile gun crews of the 7th Company, which mus 
tered one officer and 27 other ranks, had been reduced to 11 other 
ranks by nightfall, the rest either being killed or wounded. The two 
guns of the 8th Company on the extreme left got off much more 
lightly. They dispersed Germans bringing two machine guns into 
action near Vine Cottage and caught fleeting glimpses of good targets. 

Twelve sniping guns had gone over with the general attack, four 
from the 9th Company and four from the 12th on the 4th Division 
front and four from the 15th Company on the 3rd Division front. The 
two right batteries, owing to the smoke barrage of the Germans 
throughout the morning, were unable to get good targets. The left 
battery, just after zero, using direct overhead fire, had good shooting 
on the enemy seen on the skyline of the ridge, running from pill-boxes 
and shelters. Two guns, however, of this left battery were knocked 
out of action shortly getting their first targets. 

The barrage guns suffered very heavily in this action and no 
stronger proof could be had of the effectiveness of our barrage fire 
than the attention the enemy s low-flying planes gave to locating and 
dealing with them. 

Batteries 1 to 4, after losing six guns, managed to move to the 
rear and take up new positions near Seine. Of these four batteries 
that of the 16th Company suffered most severely. Lieut. Gavreau, 
in charge, was killed. He had been wounded before zero hour but 
refused to go out and was killed by shell fire shortly after. Five other 
ranks killed, one officer and nine other ranks wounded completed the 
heavy toll before the guns could be moved. The 10th, llth and 12th 
Companies officers did a magnificent job in reorganizing and 26 
remaining guns were in action in the new positions by 2 p.m., despite 
vicious machine-gunning attacks from enemy low-flying planes. 



BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE 

Battery No. 5 (1st C. M. M. G. Brigade) was completely disabled 
in a very short time. Capt. Brotherston, O. C., had been killed while 
reconnoitering his battery positions on the night before the attack. 
Two other officers wounded, seven other ranks killed, 14 wounded and 
five gassed left only 10 men to man the guns. 

The 3rd Division Barrage Batteries were running in good fortune 
for their barrage program but as low-flying planes of the enemy drove 
our flghts back shortly before 10 o clock they directed artillery which 
shelled Nos. 7 and 8 heavily with 5.9 s and 8-inch shells. The concen 
tration was so heavy and sudden and the condition of the ground on 
both sides of the batteries so marshy that guns and personnel were 
greatly reduced before they could be moved. Only two guns were 
left in action in each battery. No. 7 ("B" Battery, 1st C. M. M. G. 
Brigade) had only one officer and 11 other ranks left and No. 8 (9th 
Company) had but one officer and 16 other ranks with the guns. 

Nos. 9 and 10 Batteries were laid on the whole SOS line while 
new positions were located, barrage lines worked out and reinforce 
ments brought up and placed in position. By 7 p.m. all four batteries 
were complete and again in action. About 1 p.m. No. 3 Battery (two 
guns, 8th; six guns, 15th Company) was heavily shelled and both 
officers were casualties. Three guns of No. 4 Battery were put out 
of action but owing to the proximity of the advanced armourers 
depot no gun was out of action more than 30 minutes. Stoppages 
were mostly caused from wet and dirty belts in spite of every pre 
caution taken to keep them dry. 

Once more the effects of our machine gun barrage fire drew high 
praise from the infantry and prisoners taken on the 30th confirmed 
its terrific execution, especially as it came down on defended shell 
holes. 

And now came an interval of six days. It was a pause that could, 
audibly, hardly be construed as such. 

True, the wholesale horror of the battle operations themselves 
was over for the moment, but into the rest areas which were that 
only in the broad, comparative sense men of the 3rd and 4th 
Divisions were to carry unforgettable mental pictures of a living hell 
of exploding shells, of machine gun and rifle fire that swept whole 
platoons into the mire; of wounded left helpless and pinned in the 
pitiless mud; of moments up there, where, if only for short spells, 
reason and sanity and mercy returned so that stretcher parties of 
the enemy and our own, under the protection of white flags, were 
able to clear the battlefield. From that momentary gesture the 
wounded and their brave bearers had still to run the gamut of con 
stant, destructive shelling along duckboards and roads that, to Ger 
man gunners, were known to a foot. 



90 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

The back areas, as the 1st and 2nd Divisions trudged in to start 
the relief of the shattered but still unshaken men of the other two 
Divisions who had borne the first brunt of attacking, presented an 
indescribable picture. A whole Corps was crowded in there and yet 
it was uncanny the way in which this vast number of men took to 
ground and seemed utterly to disappear into the labyrinth of warrens. 
Forward roads were under constant shelling and the unblinking stare 
of a ring of enemy "sausage balloons" which hung in the gray skies 
to the east, roughly outlining the salient as it had been further pushed 
in. The "camps" to the rear, the innumerable "horse lines," with 
their patient, enduring equine occupants dotting the flat landscape, 
all presented an inviting target that seeming swarms of Hun bombers 
could not, and did not, neglect. 

Only Passchendaele and Mosselmarkt villages remained to be 
taken before the ridge would be secure, but that "only" was a four- 
letter word that was to spell out a demand for heroism and endurance 
by the 1st and 2nd Divisions to fully equal those qualities which the 
3rd and 4th had displayed in such deathless fashion. The German 
Higher Command had ordered that this last ridge be held at all costs 
and if lost, recaptured no matter how high and heavy the price. More 
artillery was rushed up to fill the gaps blown out in the two previous 
operations by accuracy and concentration of our own gunners. 
Defences in front of, and in, these two key villages were strengthened 
in every way German ingenuity could suggest. 

On October 31st there had been isolated counter-attacks on the 
4th Division and one was launched against the 3rd Division at 1.15 
a.m. the same day. 

After taking over the line, the 1st and 2nd Division Machine Gun 
Companies started immediately in on preparations for the impending 
attack. Just on completion of their relief on November 3rd, the 4th 
C. I. B. beat off an enemy counter-attack. On November 4th the 
barrage guns, already in position, responded to an SOS call at 4 a.m., 
but no enemy attack developed. 

The frontage of the attack to be launched on November 6th was 
considerably shortened for the 2nd Division on the right. Passchen 
daele itself was included in this Division s objectives. The ground 
over which the 2nd was to attack was high and included comparatively 
little marshy ground. On the right flank of the 1st Division large 
areas of mud and water existed and in front of the centre and left the 
ground was practically impassable for infantry. The only good 
ground was the narow Bellevue-Meetcheele Spur, which was 350 
yards wide at its narrowest point west of Meetcheele. The 1st there 
fore was to avoid the swamp on the left in Goudberg Valley. A sub- 



BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE 91 

siriary attack on Vine Cottage by a company and a half of Canadians 
the night before the general attack was considered one of the lesser 
epics of the war, since its garrison fought to the end against cold steel. 
Corps to the right and left prolonged our artillery and machine 
gun barrage on their own frontage, simulating an attack at the same 
time, but in the case of the machine gun barrage the Canadians were 
to have the barrage help of 26 guns of the 1st Anzac Corps on the 
right and 9 guns of the 2nd Corps on the left. With our own 80 guns, 
made up from the Companies and from the 1st Motor Brigade, a 
grand total of 114 guns were to fire the barrage. 

Sixteen mobile guns were to be employed on the 2nd Division 
front, but there were to be no "Sniping Batteries." Nine of these 
were to have a purely defensive role. They were to be placed in 
forward positions prior to zero hour and remain there throughout the 
operation. The shallow advance contemplated on the 2nd Division 
front accounted for this decision. The 5th and 6th Companies pro 
vided these guns. 

Eight mobile guns of the 1st Company were detailed to the 1st 
Brigade, which was to do the attacking for the 1st Division. 

Our guns had been deluging the enemy front with shells for 48 
hours and only two minutes of intense concentration heralded the 
attack of November 6th as the Canadians pushed off close behind 
their barrage at 6 a.m. The attack progressed well along the whole 
front. By 7.10 2nd Divisional men were in Passchendaele Village 
itself in large numbers and at 8.45 all objectives had been carried. 
The 1st Division reached their first objective at 7.45 a.m., the garrison 
of Mosselmarkt not having offered the expected resistance. They 
were so dazed by our barrage and surprised by our men following so 
close behind it that they had no time for resistance. 

On the whole, the mobile guns got off rather easily in the matter 
of casualties, especially those with the 2nd Division. At 8.50 a.m. the 
enemy attempted a counter-attack with one battalion north of Pas 
schendaele but this attack was beaten off. Three times that morning 
they were again to attempt assembling for attacks but were dispersed 
by artillery and machine gun fire. 

Six 1st Company guns, under Lieut. Trebilcock, covering the 
advance of the 1st Infantry Battalion while waiting for zero hour, 
had three other ranks killed and one wounded and a gun put out of 
action, but the gun was quickly replaced, and shortly after zero the 
crews were led forward to positions on the highest ground of the 
Bellevue-Meetcheele Spur on eith side of the Weiltje Road. At 10.05 
Lieut. Trebilcock was seriously wounded and died of wounds in the 
afternoon. 



92 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

Four sniping guns of the 2nd Company, located at Crest Farm, 
laid on Meetcheele Spur, failed to get any good targets during the 
attack and avoided suffering any casualties. On the evening of the 
7th, however, when the battery was preparing to leave, two crews, 
guns and equipment were buried as heavy enemy shelling destroyed 
the trench. Four other ranks were killed, one was dug out of the 
shattered trench, badly wounded, and two could not be found. 

Thus went the luck of battles. 

If mobile guns came off lightly in the actual battle, the barrage 
guns did not. 

Nos. 1 and 2 Batteries, near Augustus Wood, came in for a lot 
of shelling and No. 1 Battery was forced out of its position. No. 2 
Battery lost five other ranks wounded and one gun but remained in 
position. Batteries 3, 4 and 5, near Heine House, had comparatively 
few casualties though heavily shelled. A carrying party for No. 3 
Battery, bringing up ammunition, had six killed and four wounded 
out of 12 as the searching enemy artillery caught them. No. 5 Battery 
(Bordens) fired 35,000 rounds in reply to the SOS call at 10 a.m. 

Batteries 6 and 7 suffered the heaviest during the attack, no less 
than 23 casualties being counted. These two batteries got off 44,000 
rounds in the attack barrage. No. 8 Battery (3rd and 13th Com 
panies) had one gun destroyed early but within 30 minutes it was 
replaced from the advanced armourer s depot. A second gun destroyed 
later in the day was similarly replaced. 

Once more there came high praise for the effectiveness of the 
machine gun barrage. 

The G. 0. C. 5th C. I. B. wrote: 

"Our machine gun barrage was perfect and, according to reports from 
prisoners, caused heavy casualties among the enemy. When the SOS 
signal went up our machine guns opened up so promptly that they were 
all firing before the flare reached the ground. This was favorably com 
mented upon by all hands in the infantry." 

Prisoners captured on November 6th stated that men of a Second 
Line battalion coming up in support between 6.45 and 7 a.m. were 
literally mown down by our machine gun barrage. Captured German 
machine gunners of the 3rd M. K. Kompanies, 10th Grenadier Regi 
ment, said that owing to our M. G. and artillery barrage and the 
rapidity of our infantry advance not one of their 10 machine guns 
got into action. 

Owing to the heavy losses suffered by the barrage groups in the 
intervals between phases and because of the great strain upon the 
personnel who had to remain in the line, in some cases as long as 
eight days, the Corps Commander on representations from the C. M. 
G. C. gave orders that these batteries were to be withdrawn 48 hours 



BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE 93 

after an operation, leaving only sufficient guns for harassing fire and 
dealing with SOS signals. 

The elements of the Motors were withdrawn and four guns from 
each of the Machine Gun Companies in the Divisions were left in 
the line, in pursuance of these orders. 

The 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division and the 6th Brigade of the 
2nd were assigned the task of carrying out the last operation on 
November 10th on an extremely narrow frontage. 

Considering the small depth of advance aimed at in the operation, 
no sniping or mobile guns were used on the 2nd Division front. Guns 
already in position were sited in positions from which they could 
efficiently handle any tasks. Six mobile guns went over with the 2nd 
Brigade on the 1st Division front. 

For barrage tasks a total of 88 guns were available. There were 
24 each from the two Divisional "battalions," 24 from the Motors 
and 16 guns from the 1st Anzac Corps on the right comprising this 
total. 

Rain had fallen during the night and when, at 6.05 on the morn 
ing of November 10th, our attacking barrage was laid down and 
started on its way, it was still raining. By 8 a.m. all objectives of 
this attack, entirely to the north of Passchendaele Village had been 
taken. The 2nd Division encountered none of the enemy. In the left 
sector the 7th Battalion, bothered by machine gun fire from Venison 
Trench 300 yards beyond the objective, charged forward and captur 
ing a portion of the trench and some prisoners, retired to conform 
with the rest of the line. The 8th Battalion, after reaching the left 
objective at 6.50 a.m., found their flanks in the air owing to the 
inability of the 1st (British) Division to advance in the face of 
machine gun fire from Vocation and Vox Farms. The flank was bent 
back to a point 100 yards south of Venture Farm. There the West 
erners were shelled heavily and at 2.36 p.m. repelled a determined 
enemy counter-attack. 

Preparations for this small-scale attack took a bigger toll of 
machine gunners than the actual operation. 

Three guns of the 14th Company, 300 yards east of Passchendaele 
Village, had been destroyed on the day before the attack. Seven other 
ranks were killed, the officer and two other ranks wounded. As three 
other guns to replace these were being started for their defence posi 
tions at 2 a.m. on the morning of the attack, an enemy bombardment 
of Tyne Cottage killed two other ranks and destroyed the three guns. 
Replacement guns did not arrive until 4.30 p.m. on the afternoon of 
the 10th and shelling was so severe that it was decided to keep them 
until next morning. Two of them were then started on their way 



94 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

and by noon these two guns had been destroyed, though the crews 
escaped. 

The 6th Company defence guns had also had an unfortunate 
tour. Two guns were destroyed on the way into the line on the 8th 
and on November 9th four other ranks were killed and two wounded 
at the positions of these guns during severe shelling. 

Four mobile guns of the 1st Division got forward with the 
infantry into previously selected positions and had numerous targets 
during the 10th, but by evening three of these four guns had been 
destroyed or put out of action by the intense enemy shelling. Lieut. 
Laing, in charge of these guns, had left the gun he was with to super 
vise the positions taken 200 yards in rear of the final objective and 
report his final disposition to the infantry. This was the last seen 
of the officer, who was first reported missing, then "killed in action." 

Lance-Corp. Frost s action as he was left finally alone with the 
one remaining gun, splendidly illustrates that initiative, even in isola 
tion, of gun numbers. This soldier worked his gun, sniping at enemy 
parties until his ammunition gave out. He dismounted his gun and 
put it under cover in a shell hole and went back to get more ammuni 
tion. With his new supply he kept his gun in action until the battalion 
was relieved, though throughout this period he was without food or 
water. 

As if this tragic confusion up front were not enough, the dis 
appearance of these guns caused more than a flurry elsewhere. Four 
guns were brought up from barrage positions and when orders for 
their disposal were not forthcoming they were sent back and it was 
not until the llth that these defence guns were in position, two at 
Vindictive Crossroads firing north-east and two north of Venture 
Farm to assist in the defence of the exposed left flank. 

A tale of such an ill-starred venture as these four guns present 
might well illustrate why war is an art not an exact science. 

The barrage guns had again a story of heavy losses. Eleven 
barrage guns were destroyed by the intense shelling during the day. 

The batteries fired an average of 20,000 rounds each in the attack 
barrage but after heavy rain started falling at 10 a.m. there was 
extreme difficulty in keeping the guns in action though every device 
to keep the belts dry was tried. Six guns of No. 5 Battery (13th 
Company) had answered the SOS signal in the afternoon. After 
firing three belts four of these guns went out of action because of 
wet and dirty belts. Mud thrown over guns and equipment by explod 
ing shells had put all the battery out of action in another 20 minutes. 

This was a common experience of the day. 

One hour after zero No. 1 Battery (14th Company), after having 



BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE 95 

two guns blown up, moved to new positions but not before Lieut. Lyon 

was killed. 

No. 4 Battery (Batons) had no casualties but thanked the mud 
for it. At No. 8 Battery (Bordens) Lieut. Kill was killed 30 minutes 
after fire opened and two guns were put out of action. At 1.30 p.m. 
three other ranks were killed and three wounded. No. 9 (Yukons) 
had two guns put out of action and at 11.15 one officer and five other 
ranks were buried in a section of trench on which two shells fell in 
succession. 

And thus came to an end the attacks on Passchendaele Ridge. 
There was still holding to be done, however, and since the Germans 
were still in a venomous, retaliatory frame of mind the task of the 
3rd and 4th Divisions which returned to the area and relieved the 1st 
and 2nd was not to be by any means a "cushy" one. 

Reliefs were completed by November 13th and then came a 
stretch of six days, when merely holding what had been won at such 
cost proved in itself a costly enough busines. In fact on the 13th at 4.35 
p.m. the enemy launched an attack against the 3rd Division front 
in determined fashion, but this was broken up with great loss to the 
attackers. 

The llth Company had a particularly nasty tour in local defence 
positions south of Passchendaele from November llth to November 
15th until relieved by guns from the 10th and 8th Companies. The 
10th Company lost two of its four crews sent up to the relief. 

Guns put out by direct hits in the almost constant shelling, con 
ditions even on the higher ground of the ridge itself which demanded 
the utmost in stamina from infantry in sodden trenches and machine 
gunners in their shell holes continued the strain and the stress of 
what was the final "holding tour" at Passchendaele. Enemy planes still 
continued to swoop down over the ridge and the Hun airman had time 
to take a malicious delight in "machine gunning" runners who, in 
pairs, tried to keep up communication. 

For several nights as the relief between the Canadian Divisions 
was going on there was a reminder to worn troops that a solar system 
still existed for in the late afternoons the sun broke through the 
heavy, gray overhanging clouds and went down in a riot of red, 
throwing the broken, shattered silhouette of the City of Ypres up in 
eye-catching relief. It was one of the few things that happened in 
those dreary weeks of misery and strain to remind Canadians that 
another world than this mangled area in the salient existed and that 
there people awoke to the expectation of life rather than death. 

The 16th and 10th M. G. Companies were the last Canadians to 
leave the Passchendaele Ridge. The 16th was relieved by the 248th 



96 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

British M. G. Company on the night of the 19th -20th of November. 
Their relief was completed in the early morning hours. 

The 10th Company, which had been the first machine gun unit 
in the salient, had also the distinction of being the last to leave, for 
their relief by the 100th British Company was not completed until 
7 a.m. on the 20th. 

Though filing out in broad daylight from positions in which no 
movement had been allowed by day, they were not shelled. 

Their last look over their shoulders at the rolling plain of Roulers, 
overhung by a low mist, was not a lingering one. Nor, as with hurried 
steps which took them back over the ground of the hard-won advance, 
were they to have any possible way of knowing that in a few months 
the German tide would once more swirl up and over Passchendaele 
Ridge with ridiculous ease and almost up to the very ramparts of 
Ypres itself, nor even yet that a year from this same November that 
peace would come to torn Flanders and to nearly all the. world. 




BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE 



97 



8o^T>B4*7flr^k l Z& 




TENSE INTERLUDE 

CHAPTER V. 

r lPHE 3rd and 13th Companies of the 1st Division and the 4th and 
-* 14th of the 2nd had no rest after Passchendaele as they pro 
ceeded immediately upon arrival back in the Lens-Vimy front to the 
relief of British Machine Gun Companies in the line. 

The 3rd and 13th Companies relieved the 177th M. G. Company 
(British) and 174th M. G. Company (British) in the Lens-Avion 
sector on the night of November 16th - 17th. 

The 4th and 14th Companies relieved the 143rd and 144th M. G. 
Companies (British) on the same night, taking over positions on the 
Mericourt sector. 

But even immediate duty in the line here was a "rest" after 
Passchendaele and the Canadian Machine Gun Corps was to have 
plenty of time in which to go through a wide variety of experiences 
and was to enter upon a period that was to make the Vimy-Lens 
sector for the Canadian Corps as a whole as much akin to "home" as 
was possible in a country where war had laid a wide swath of deso 
lation from the North Sea to the Vosges Mountains, 400 miles away 
to the south. 

As the 3rd and 4th Divisions made their more leisurely trek back 
to Vimy, part of it by marching, the Corps was practically settled in 
its old area by November 23rd and was to continue service on this 
front which ultimately was to pile up into the staggering total of 
33,500,000 man days days that were to have many new and pleasant 
features, days and nights which were to see flashes of war return in 
grim intensity for short periods and days and nights that would add 
up to months of a new type of strain that of tense waiting for events 
of immense, world-shaking portent to happen. 

More pressing, however, for the moment to the Canadian Machine 
Gun Corps was the immediate realization of what Passchendaele had 
cost this arm. 

It was easy enough for companies, batteries and down to gun 
crews to realize that they had been hit hard. They needed no details 
no compilation of data on the subject and asked for none. Roll calls 
that had been sorrowfully shortened were to be a constant reminder 
of Passchendaele s cost to the machine gunners until reinforcements 
filled the gap. 

Still a resume of casualties to the Machine Gun Corps during the 



TENSE INTERLUDE 99 

four phases of the Passchendaele operations was revealing and will 
probably contradict the impression of the time in regard to relative 
losses by units. 

Compiled by Division and Corps units, the list is: 

Other 

Unit Period Officers Ranks Total 

1st M. G. Battalion (Nov. 2nd to 15th) 8 152 160 

2nd M. G. Battalion (Nov. 2nd to 12th) 8 159 167 

3rd M. G. Battalion (Oct. 26th to Nov. 1st) 9 133 142 

4th M. G. Battalion (Oct. 26th to Nov. 1st) . 10 125 135 

1st C.M.M.G. Brigade (Oct. 25th to Nov. 15th) 9 86 95 



Total Casualties 44 655 699 

The above data, however, did not cover the holding tour of the 
3rd and 4th Divisions, which, of course, added casualties in consider 
able numbers to the totals. 

The arrangements for the supply of reinforcements had worked 
splendidly despite the heavy casualty lists. The normal supply of 
reinforcements in France for active units was 10 per cent of the 
strength but by the end of the first attack at Passchendaele this allot 
ment had been used up. Reinforcements then consisted of men freshly 
arrived from England, most of whom had never been under fire. In 
one case a barrage battery was reduced to two gunners per gun and 
these gunners were fresh drafts. Lieut.-Col. Brutinel, C. M. G. C. 
officer commanding, in a letter to the Corps commander, paid high 
tribute to these drafts and attributed it to the high standard of 
training in the Canadian Machine Gun Depot in Seaford, commanded 
by Lieut.-Col. W. M. Balfour, D.S.O. 

At Passchendaele, the rapidly evolving organization of the Corps 
had proven sound at every step. 

The theory of tactical handling which had undergone such radical 
at Passchendaele had helped very greatly in giving tactical theories 
a definite form and content. Principles of employment, hitherto in 
changes since 1914 was now being stabilized and the experience gained 
a more or less experimental stage, were now established, it seemed, 
without question. 

"Successful co-operation of machine guns with infantry depends 
as much upon the knowledge of machine gun tactics possessed by the 
infantry commander concerned, and the interest which he takes in 
the employment of these weapons, as upon the energy and ability of 
the machine gun officer in charge of the guns," was a conclusion 
arrived at following the experience of close liaison with the infantry 
as carried out by the mobile and sniping guns. 

The muddy conditions at Passchendaele had served not only to 



100 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

show the scope but the limitations as well of the Vickers guns. The 
lack of the mobility of the Vickers under certain conditions as con 
trasted with its lighter contemporary, the Lewis gun, was emphasized 
and subsequent to these operations there was less and less a tendency 
on the part of the higher infantry command to confuse the functions 
of these two weapons. 

Relative to the part played in the Passchendaele operations by 
the infant Machine Gun Corps, Gen. Sir Arthur Currie, in an appreci 
ative letter, said in part : 

"I regret that the casualties have been so high but these have 
resulted from the special efforts made by the enemy to destroy the 
machine gun crews from whom they suffered so much. 

"All prisoners have testified to the great losses caused the enemy 
by our machine gun fire, while our own infantry are loud in their 
praises of the support rendered by our machine gunners. 

"That the men of the Machine Gun Corps kept their guns in 
action under the conditions experienced testifies in the highest 
possible manner to their splendid discipline and fine fighting spirit. 

"I would like to have an opportunity of personally conveying to 
the machine gunners my appreciation of the splendid part played by 
them in winning our recent battles. 

"Ever yours faithfully, 

(Signed) "A. W. CURRIE." 

He was to take that opportunity in the case of the 4th Division 
"Battalion," which for the first time, shortly after Passchendaele, was 
drawn up for inspection as one formation, and to the officers and men 
of this unit Gen. Sir Arthur Currie was to repeat the appreciation of 
his letter as he was to prove later by executive action his great and 
abiding faith in the Corps. 

Reinforcements had not come up at the time of the inspection 
near Dieval, but even with ranks hardly half strength the formation, 
still a "battalion" only on paper, made a very impressive show. It 
even impressed the machine gun formation itself, since it had never 
had a view of itself in one spot. 

The Corps Machine Gun officer, Lieut.-Col. R. Brutinel, sent to 
each commanding officer of the Corps a copy of Gen. Sir Arthur 
Currie s letter as well as one of his own, in which he said, in part: 

"The fine example of daring, initiative and fruitful leadership on 
the part of the officers commanding mobile machine guns stands out 
with particular brilliancy. 

"By their physical and moral endurance, their spirit of sacrifice 
and absolute devotion to duty, the Barrage Machine Gun Batteries 



TENSE INTERLUDE 101 

succeeded in keeping their batteries in action regardless of the most 
adverse conditions of ground and weather and of the awful losses 
inflicted on them by hostile artillery. 

"The standard set by the Canadian machine gunners during 
the operations leading to the capture of Passchendaele Ridge may 
possibly be equaled it can never be surpassed." 

But while a new corps consciousness was beginning to make itself 
felt, while the definite jobs of machine guns had been clarified and 
their potentialities and weaknesses were in much better-balanced 
perspective, the Brigade Machine Gun Company continued to be an 
entity unto itself. The intimate esprit de corps which was so quickly 
possible to build up in an infantry battalion, never had any counter 
part in the machine gun sense of a "battalion." Companies found 
themselves only infrequently out at the machine gun rest camps, at 
one and the same time. And even when, as the trench routine of the 
winter of 1917-1918 became more definitely established, two com 
panies found themselves at rest together they maintained separate 
messes for the officers. 

Nevertheless there was a cohesive corps feeling. The evolution 
of organization had brought with it a policy and a more definite, more 
standardized program of training. And a policy, backed by corps 
organization, was to give machine gunners a new feeling of security 
from tactical whims of the moment ; a more pronounced independence 
of thought and action. 

The Canadian Corps as a whole settled down to a winter of quiet 
and rest and into the new and manifold activities of the rest periods 
the Canadian Machine Gun Corps units entered with a zest. 

The excitement of an election on the conscription issue in an 
atmosphere where bullets not ballots ruled gave way to periods 
at rest where the lighter side of war was given full scope in a whole 
some, well-organized way. Concert parties which were to achieve 
real professional fame, bloomed and blossomed under handicaps that 
produced many ludicrous angles, but Art was to prove that it knew 
no limitations in the matter of production facilities. In the realm of 
theatrical fantasy men lost themselves for the moment from the grim 
realities that might lie a few days ahead or were a few days behind 
in the trenches over the ridge or in front of Lens. Machine gunners 
preened themselves because they had provided one of the most 
wholesome-looking, charming and wholly captivating "girls" of all 
the concert parties. "She" had been a No. 6 on a gun and a very 
willing, conscientious gunner. 

A "Khaki University," the establishment of officers clubs and 
canteens for the men, many reunions of officers from older divisions 



102 



THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES 




Christmas Card, 4th Canadian M. G. Battalion, France, 1917 - 1918 

and billets that generally were dry, clean and comfortable these were 
some of the activities and some of the conditions which were to make 
rest periods out of the line during this winter memorable for war- 
weary troops. 

Came Christmas and then New Year s. To those lucky enough 
to be out of the line was vouchsafed an opportunity of putting on the 
festive dog. To those doing a regular tour the two occasions meant 
only another day. Christmas Day was quiet. Different sectors had 
different experiences, but any experiences were bound to be incon 
gruous with the spirit of the calendar date. 

The New Year was ushering in one unblinking certainty to the 
higher allied command and that was the inevitability of the Western 
Front becoming the decisive theatre of war and that an immense 
Germanic storm was brewing. 

The year 1917 had seen the Canadians win greater recognition 
as one of the strongest-hitting forces in the British armies. They 
had started the campaign auspiciously off at Vimy and ended their 
part of it on a note of sorry triumph at Passchendaele. They knew 
Passchendaele to be a ghastly reflection of victory even then but they 
felt the exultation of comradely sacrifice since the British strategy 
which dictated the futile Third Battle of Ypres had been by now trans 
lated into the grim necessity of taking blows which a wavering France 
could no longer absorb. The lower commands knew nothing of 
mutinies in the French army. 



TENSE INTERLUDE 103 

In fact the lower commands were not much concerned with the 
larger implications of 1917 and the campaigns which started out with 
such high hopes and had ended in an atmosphere of menacing doubt. 

Russia, with its tremendous potential manpower, was a disabled 
giant and out of the fight. 

The United States had been unable to make any immediate 
contribution. 

The disaster which had overtaken the Italians at Caporetta, when 
the suddenly delivered Teutonic blow caused Cadorna s army to reel 
backward for 70 miles in 16 days with a loss of 600,000 men, had 
almost put Italy out of the fight in October. 

Exultation over Gen. Byng s brilliant victory had been subdued 
by realization of its tragic limitations in vision and reserves and died 
out when the full extent of Ludendorf s counter-stroke with 16 fresh 
divisions on November 30th had become known. 

Caporetta and the counter-attack at Cambria demonstrated what 
was in store for the Western Front. 

From autumn through the winter as unrestricted submarine 
warfare kept sinking allied shipping at a sinister rate it was realized 
that a mighty race for time was on a race which Germany might 
win if the British and French armies could not withstand the full 
shock before the Americans arrived in sufficient numbers to restore 
the balance of manpower on the Western Front. 

Coming into February, the advance rumblings of this storm 
manifested itself on the Vimy and Lens fronts by increased aggres 
siveness of the Germans, which was met in kind by the Canadians 
a trifle more so, in fact. 

No one appreciated the menace of the storm more than the Cana 
dian Corps Commander. He had fought the suggestion for forming 
two Canadian Corps by forming three-battalion brigades and had won 
his argument for the retention of one corps, but a stronger one. Gen. 
Currie proposed an increase in personnel of 315 officers and 13,755 
other ranks and in these figures the Machine Gun Corps were to loom 
large. 

Vimy Ridge had now become the centre of the British line and 
it was the key to a rich mining area that was absolutely vital to the 
war material needs of France. 

The Allied Command had tried to gauge the power of the coming 
German offensive accurately. They realized that their lines would 
bend they hoped, and felt sure, they would not break. 

Back of the strong main system of defence which had been 
assiduously repaired and strengthened by the Canadian occupation 
this winter, defensive works were also completed in rear to take care 



104 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

of the more dire contingencies. Defence in depth was provided for 
the first shock. On Vimy Ridge alone 72 new artillery positions were 
built and stacked with ammunition. Machine gun emplacements and 
barbed wire provided local defences for these. In rear of the front 
system there had been built during the "quiet" winter: 
250 miles of trench, 

300 miles of barbed wire entanglements, 
200 tunnelled machine gun emplacements. 

Machine gun positions were stored with several days supplies 
of ammunition, food and water for the garrisons. 

The explanation of those 200 tunnelled machine gun emplace 
ments is revealed in Gen. Sir Arthur Currie s summary of the defen 
sive plans for Vimy Ridge. 

"The completion of the revised Corps defences," he wrote, in 
part, "and the execution of the new army program resulted in the 
organization of a very deeply defended area, consisting of successive 
defensive systems, roughly parallel to the general line of the front 
and linked together by switch lines to protect both flanks. 

"Each defensive system was designed to protect definite topo 
graphical features, the loss of any one of which would considerably 
handicap the defence by uncovering our artillery. 

"As planned, the main framework of the defence in depth was based 
upon machine gun positions, protected by belts of wire entanglements so 
placed in relation to the field of fire of the machine guns that they 
enfiladed over the whole length. The whole area was compartmented in 
such a way that the loss of ground at any one point could be localized and 
would not cause a forced retirement from adjoining areas." 

Of these vast measures, machine gunners doing their regular 
tours were little aware except in a general way. Getting on into 
March, raiding on both sides had become more aggresive, with the 
Canadians excelling in daring and ingenuity. The new reinforcements 
after Passchendaele were now hardened to warfare. In support of 
our raids, machine gun barrages played an important part. Several 
brigades relied on a machine gun barrage alone for their raids. One 
incident out of which the machine gunners got a substantial chuckle 
came when the Germans, signalling one of their offensive parties to 
make an attack, used the same flare which notified the Emma Gees 
to open their barrage. The response from the machine gunners was 
almost instantaneous and the sad result was that the enemy marched 
right into a hail of machine gun bullets, causing them severe losses 
and effectually disposing of the attack. 

Nor were machine gunners, generally, aware of the fact that a 
new organization had already been approved and was pending 
reorganization. 

As early as December 25th, 1917, Lieut.-Col. Brutinel had drawn 



TENSE INTERLUDE 105 

up a new establishment for divisional battalions, which were now to 
consist of two companies. There was no increase in the number of 
guns, which was to remain at 64 per division, but the establishment 
aimed first of all at cutting down the administrative duties and per 
sonnel of the individual companies and giving the commanders of the 
larger companies to be formed by the merger of two brigade com 
panies more time to devote to training and to fighting. 

There was to be an increase in personnel of two officers and 288 
other ranks, bringing the new battalion strength to 1,039 all ranks. 
The battalion was to be commanded by a lieutenant-colonel with a 
suitable headquarters staff. Each of the two companies were to be 
divided into four eight-gun platoons; each platoon was again to be 
divided into two four-gun sections. Each gun crew was to include 
both a sergeant and a corporal, thus doubling the existing strength 
of N. C. O s. The total of eight other ranks on each gun crew, to 
gether with the 24 carriers (three per gun) on each platoon strength, 
was calculated to make machine gun units independent of infantry 
assistance. 

The platoon, subsequently renamed the battery, became the 
tactical unit. Hitherto it had been customary to view the section 
(four guns) as the unit for tactical purposes to work with an infantry 
battalion. Each platoon, in addition, was self contained as regards 
specialists and transport. 

Signallers were almost trebled. Under the four-company plan 
there had been a total of 16 signallers. The new establishment called 
for 40. 

The new establishment had been forwarded on January 10th, 
1918, by Gen. Sir Arthur Currie, Corps Commander, and in a covering 
letter he unreservedly recommended it: 

"It is my considered opinion," he wrote, "that the employment of the 
infantry and resulting wastage through casualties and sickness will be 
directly influenced this year, more than ever before, by the EFFICIENCY, 
OR OTHERWISE, OF THE MACHINE GUN SERVICE. It is urgent that 
the proposed establishment may be completed early this winter." 

The urgency note in Sir Arthur Currie s letter did not achieve 
its purpose for, although the whole tempo of the Corps activities had 
been speeded up with the approach of spring, the German storm 
broke in all its fury on March 21st as with unbelievable thrusting 
power Ludendorff struck at the junction between the French and 
British armies in front of Amiens. 

The end of Machine Gun Company traditions, which had been two 
years in the building, was lost in the welter of vastly more important 
matters in the next weeks. There was no time for regrets as old 
company identities were almost utterly lost in the shuffle. 

When the German storm broke, the 3rd Division was holding the 



106 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

Mericourt- Avion sector; the 4th Division was on the Lens-St. Emile 
front; the 1st Division was guarding Hill 70; and the 2nd Division 
was out in rest in the Auchel area. 

Three days later the 4th and 3rd Divisions had extended their 
fronts, the 1st Division was in Army Reserve and the 2nd Division 
was in General Headquarters. 

In the line, on the move and at temporary halts, the reorgan 
ization of the Machine Gun Companies into battalions took place. 
Reorganization was not "numbered" off in succession from the right. 

The 2nd and 3rd Division units were reorganized first. 

The four companies of the 2nd Canadian Divisional Machine Gun 
"Battalion" (the 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th C. M. G. Companies) were 
officially embodied in the 2nd Battalion C. M. G. C. on March 23rd. It 
was arranged that the 5th and 14th Companies should form No. 1 
Company under the new organization and that the 4th and 6th Com 
panies should form No. 2 Company. Owing to the tactical situation 
at the time and the threatened imminence of active operations, the 
G. 0. C. 2nd Division decided not, actually, to reform existing Machine 
Gun Companies into four-battery companies in the meantime. Accord 
ingly the four Machine Gun Companies of the 2nd Division operated 
on the old basis until April 7th. 

Major J. Basevi became 0. C. No. 1 Company and Major W. M. 
Pearce was appointed to command No. 2 Company under the battalion 
command of Lieut. -Col. J. C. Weir, M.C. The second in command was 
Major J. E. McCorkell, with Capt. G. N. Douglas, M.C., completing 
headquarters staff as adjutant. 

The 3rd Division, still holding the Mericourt-Avion line on March 
23rd, started its reorganization on that date. 

Though momentarily expecting an attack, reorganization was 
effected. On March 23rd the 9th and 15th Companies were formed 
into four batteries to compose No. 2 Company, under the command 
of Capt. J. C. Hartley, M.C., M.M. The 7th and 8th Companies were 
embodied in No. 1 Company of the 3rd Battalion C. M. G. C. on the 
following day, March 24th, and placed under the command of Major 
H. J. R. Parkes. Lieut.-Col. W. M. Moorehouse commanding, with 
Major A. M. McFaul as second in command and Lieut. G. M. Downton 
as adjutant, made up battalion headquarters. 

The reorganization of the 1st Division did not take place until 
March 27th at Marqueffles Farm, the machine gun rest camp on the 
Vimy front between Bouvigny Village and Aix-Noulette. The 2nd 
and 3rd Companies were united to form No. 1 Company under the 
command of Capt. E. R. Morris. The 1st and 13th C. M. G. Companies 
were combined to form No. 2 Company under the command of Major 



TENSE INTERLUDE 107 

J. Kay, M.C. Two days later Major Kay was evacuated sick and Capt. 
A. Denholm, D.C.M., took over. 

Lieut.-Col. S. W. Watson, D.S.O., became the commanding officer; 
Major C. V. Grantham, M.C., second in command, and Capt. L. C. 
Francis, M.C., adjutant. On the day of organization the new battalion 
was on the move by way of Camblain L Abbe to the front south of 
Arras and the first tour of the newly-formed batteries in the line 
began the night of March 29th-30th. 

The 4th Divisional reorganization was officially last. On the 
night of March 28th, the companies had been relieved in the Lens-St. 
Emile and Hill 70 sectors, and by motor lorries had been moved to 
Springvale Camp, near Ecurin. On March 29th the 10th and 16th 
Companies were brought together to form No. 1 Company under 
Major J. C. Britton. No. 2 Company was composed of the llth and 
12th C. M. G. Companies to be commanded by Major L. T. Pearce, M.C. 

Lieut.-Col. M. A. Scott, D.S.O., assumed command, with Major 
E. W. Sanson as second in command. Capt. H. Ward, M.C., was 
appointed adjutant. The newly-formed batteries were sent into the 
line on the Gavrelle-Arleux front to relieve the battered and shaken 
but dogged 56th Division Imperials, which had withstood the full force 
of the Ludendorff blow astride the Scarpe. Captured German prisoners 
had insisted that the attack, which had only managed to win the out 
post line, would be renewed next day by fresh storm troops, whose 
task was to capture Vimy Ridge from the south. 

The attack, however, never developed for it was overcome, 
aborning, by the massed, vicious fire of our artillery, to which chorus 
the machine guns in their new positions added their chattering 
challenge. 

At 3.45, at 4.30 and again at 5 o clock, sparse machine gun 
diaries report, the entire southern flank of the ridge was aflame. On 
that date the 3rd and 4th Divisions had again come under Gen. 
Currie s control. 

He found the new front on the Blue Line to which the 13th 
Imperial Corps had withdrawn in front of the Bailleul-Willerval- 
Chaudiere-Hirondelle Line as far north as the Mericourt sector. 

"Any advance beyond the Blue Line," says Gen. Currie s interim 
report, in part, "on the 4th Canadian Division front would have 
brought the Germans within assaulting distance of the weakest part 
of Vimy Ridge, and the severity of the shelling seemed to indicate 
that a renewal of their attacks was probable ... to increase the depth 
of our defences, machine gun detachments were extemporized by 
borrowing men from the machine gun battalions, who had then com- 



108 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

pleted their organization on an eight-battery basis. Some fifty extra 
machine guns were secured from Ordnance and other sources." 

Into this tense picture came the three companies of the 5th 
Division, which had been hastily broken up in England. They arrived 
in France on March 25th and in a matter of hours, practically, were 
holding reserve positions. Later they were fed into the line in sub 
sections of two guns each, relieving corresponding elements of experi 
enced units. 

The officers listed on the rosters of the 17th, 18th and 19th Com 
panies as they landed in France were: 

17TH COMPANY Capt G. Black, Capt. G. C. Hulme, Lieuts. R. 
W. Chipman, E. M. C. Goodwin, W. Leary, M.C., J. F. Maclennan, 
W. Murray, W. G. Radford, N. A. Watt, P. S. Wilson. 

18TH COMPANY Capt. C. W. de la P. Beresford (O.C.), Major 
A. W. L. Butler, Lieuts. F. Adam, W. E. Frame, H. Horwick, W. J. 
Preston, F. W. Thompson, J. E. Tudhope, M. G. Watts and F. F. 
Worthington. 

19TH COMPANY Major J. H. Brownlee (O.C.), Capt. J. McC. 
Gumming, Lieuts. G. C. Anderson, F. J. Duck, L. W. Dinnie, W. Mac- 
Intyre, J. H. Morwick, S. G. Rennie, M. M. Robinson and A. H . Wylie. 

In the resolve of all ranks to hold every inch of territory 
entrusted to their keeping, to none had it a more personal application 
than to the machine gunners, for here was their basic role of defence. 

It was true that the Somme, Vimy, Hill 70 and Passchendaele 
had brought to a high state of development the power of the machine 
gun in the offensive, especially in its barrage role. Outstripped in 
mobility by its lighter rival, the Lewis, yet the heavy Vickers had 
stoutly maintained its right to be considered the most important and 
stable factor in consolidation of newly-won ground. But in the 
offensive the role of the machine gunners was essentially more dogged 
than it was spectacular. Not for them was the exultation of the 
charge, flashing bayonets and personal contact, except in isolated 
instances. Pushing up in the front waves of the attacking infantry, 
Vickers crews were much-sought targets by both German gunners 
and snipers. They were easily distinguishable. Though they might 
not bunch as crews, still the habits of hours of gun drill could not be 
thrown off at will and their formation was sure to mark them down 
for what they were, even if their loads of guns, tripods, water cans 
and ammunition did not blazon the fact. 

On the defensive, as they felt they would be any moment now, 
they felt a new pride, a new confidence in their weapon. 

For almost a matter of years now the Germans, as they repeat 
edly met the shocks of French and British attacks on the Western 



TENSE INTERLUDE 109 

Front, had disclosed their main dependence upon the machine gun. 
And the machine gun had exacted a terrific toll. 

The German machine gunner had invariably shown himself as 
the pick of the enemy troops fighting his gun to the bitter end. And 
it was usually the bitter end, for the qualities of mercy had been 
pretty well strained to the breaking point by the time attacking troops 
had reached the source of so much of their trouble and from which 
flamed forth so much of death in their ranks. 

Canadian machine gunners, facing their first large-scale defensive 
test, therefore were determined that in steadfastness and courage 
they would have nothing to learn from their German adversaries. 

The very air that hung over the ridge seemed tense. 

On April 9th, just a year from the day that the Canadians had 
swarmed over Vimy Ridge in the first of a series of quick, sharp 
blows which the Allied staff hoped would make Germany ready for 
the "knockout blow" so vividly analogized by Premier David Lloyd 
George in his famous speech, found the British armies staggered by 
a Ludendorff blow delivered on the Lys and aimed at Armentieres. 

The first day gave them, among other famous spots, Neuve 
Chapelle and forced a British and a Portuguese division back three 
miles and a half. Next day another blow was delivered north of 
Armentieres for 10 miles and, outflanked, Armentieres had to be 
abandoned. On April llth the enemy moved over the Lawe, a tribu 
tary of the Lys. By the afternoon the Germans had forced a gap in 
our lines south-east of Bailleul and British units trying to stem the 
tide provided some of the greatest epic stands of the whole war. On 
April 12th Sir Douglas Haig issued his famous "with our backs to 
the wall" message to the troops. 

Bailleul had fallen, however, and the enemy swarmed over the 
famous Messines Ridge. For four days this line held out stubbornly, 
but the pressure of sheer numbers was too great and the loss of this 
line compelled withdrawal from Passchendaele, Gheluvelt, Poelcapelle 
and Langemarck, all names so deeply graven on Canadian minds and 
all won at such a shocking price in the ghastly Third Battle of Ypres 
of 1917. 

While Merville fell, the magnificent defence of the 1st Army held 
the line firm at Givenchy and as it joined the Canadian Corps at La 
Bassee and on past Arras, Vimy was in truth an anchor. 

Canadian anxiety over their own task at Vimy was switched to 
the north of them as the desperate situation unfolded there day by 
day over terrain the Canadians had reason to know well. 

"The success of the German offensives," says Gen. Currie, 
"emphasized the need of greater depth for defensive dispositions, 



110 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

which depend very largely on the stopping power of the machine gun. 
Unfortunately the number of machine guns with a division was inade 
quate to give the required depth of defence on a front exceeding four 
thousand yards in length. Each of my divisions was now holding a 
front approximately ten thousand yards in length and the extempor 
ized machine gun detachments formed previously, added to the 
machine gun companies of the 5th Canadian Division, in my opinion 
were far from sufficient for the task. 

"I therefore decided to add a third company of four batteries 
to each battalion of the C. M. G. Corps, thus bringing to ninety-six 
the number of machine guns in each Canadian Division. This entailed 
an increase in personnel of approximately fifty per cent of the 
strength of each machine gun battalion. 

These companies were formed provisionally on April 12th by 
withdrawing fifty men from each infantry battalion. Of these men 
a portion was sent to the machine gun battalion to be combined with 
the trained personnel, so that each machine gun crew would include 
at least four trained gunners. The remainder of the infantry per 
sonnel, withdrawn as above stated, was sent to a special machine gun 
depot, formed for the purpose, and there underwent an abridged but 
intensive course of training. Thus an immediate supply of reinforce 
ments was ensured. Twenty three-ton lorries had been borrowed from 
General Headquarters to supply a modicum of transport to the new 
units and on April 13th some of the new machine gun batteries were 
already in the line at critical points." 

That was the general picture but on April 10th a letter was 
addressed by the Corps Commander to the General Officers command 
ing Divisions which, in part, was as follows: 

"I propose to form immediately a third machine gun company 
per division. I shall not wait until such organization is sanctioned 
by the higher authorities but shall proceed immediately if I can obtain 
the guns. Official sanction can come later. 

"To do this I require 2,400 men and I propose that each battalion 
be asked to give fifty of their best men, who, for the time being, will 
remain on command to the Machine Gun Corps. . . . 

"A short time ago the strength of each battalion was increased 
by one hundred men and, in view of the increased fire power which 
the new machine gun company in each Division will give, it is con 
sidered battalions will be agreeable to allowing these men to go. There 
are no trained machine gun reinforcements in England available at 
the present time so that the organization suggested must be impro 
vised from resources here. 

"I would like you to take this matter up with your battalion 



TENSE INTERLUDE 111 

commanders at once. While no doubt they will dislike losing their 
men from the infantry, I believe they will realize it is for the general 
good, and I would ask you to urge upon them to earmark fifty of 
their best and brainiest men for the purpose outlined above." 

That is a very revealing letter. 

It is a revelation in its way of the initiative and type of leader 
ship Gen. Sir Arthur Currie brought to the Canadian Corps and as a 
tribute to the dependence the Corps Commander placed upon the 
machine gun it needs no enlargement. 

It would be a pleasure to record at this point that all battalion 
commanders did earmark their "best and brainiest" but that would 
be wide of the truth. The big majority did do just that but more 
than a few who had the old "trench raid" view of the situation, whose 
horizon was bounded by their flanks and who still, when confronted 
with a plea for suggestions by machine gun subalterns, would mutter 
"Oh, stick the damned things anywhere, anywhere out of here." They 
earmarked the lame and the halt. 

Even with the addition of a third company the ratio between 
machine guns and rifles in the Canadian Corps was not percentively 
larger. 

Previously it had been below that of other Divisions in the British 
Army. In a British Division with nine battalions (9,000 rifles) and 
64 guns the ratio was one Vickers gun to 141 rifles. In a Canadian 
Division with 12 battalions (13,200 rifles) and 64 Vickers guns, the 
proportion was one Vickers gun to 206 rifles. The addition of 32 guns 
per Division brought the Canadian Corps ratio up to one Vickers gun 
to 138 rifles. 

It was on April 12th, 1918, detailed instructions were issued by 
Canadian Corps for the supply and training of personnel for the new 
companies. Each division supplied 12 officers and 600 other ranks. 
The Canadian Corp Reinforcement Camp supplied 25 officers. Signal 
lers and other specialists were not provided initially but were later 
drawn, partly from the C. R. R. C., partly from the C. M. G. C. R. D. 
All personnel found unsuitable for machine gun work were returned 
to their respective units and immediately replaced by men likely to 
become machine gunners. 

It was not until the 16th that Gen. Currie wrote to Canadian 
Headquarters in London stating what he had done and at the same 
time submitting a revised establishment for the approval of the 
Overseas Ministry. 



112 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

The war establishment of a Canadian Machine Gun Corps Battalion as finally 
approved on May 1st, 1918, was as detailed below: 

PERSONNEL 

S./Sgts. 

and 
Off. W.O. Sgts. Art s O.K. Total 

Headquarters 7 2 3 1 21 34 

Headquarters (attached) 8 15 2 .... 8 12 

3 Companies 54 .... 114 24 1,299 1,506 

3 Companies (attached) .... .... .... 6 6 



Totals 63 17 119 25 1,334 1,558 

TRANSPORT 

Rid. L. Dr. Hy. Dr. Total Bicycles 

Headquarters 5 3 .... 8 

Headquarters (attached) 2 .... .... 2 

3 Companies 30 297 12 339 24 

3 Companies (attached) 



Totals 37 300 12 349 24 

The nominal roll of officers of the four battalions as on February 
22nd (the reorganization on a two-company basis still awaited official 
sanction) was a follows: 

1st BATTALION C. M. G. C. 
Battalion Headquarters 

Officer Commanding Lieut.-Col. S. W. Watson, D.S.O. 
Second in .Command Major C. V. Grantham, M.C. 
Adjutant Capt. L. G. Francis. 
Quartermaster Lieut. J. Wylie. 
Signalling Officer Lieut. A. W. Beament. 
Medical Officer Capt. D. A. Morrison, C.A.M.C. 
Paymaster Capt. H. B. Woods, C.A.P.C. 

Company Officers 

Major J. McKay Lieut. C. C. Drew 

Capt. G. C. Ferrie Lieut. O. W. Fawcett 

Capt. E. R. Morris Lieut. S. J. Freeman 

Lieut. D. S. Bankier Lieut. K. B. Hamilton 

Lieut. C. A. Battershill Lieut. E. Hancock 

Lieut. A. C. Bowles Lieut. W. B. Henry 

Lieut. E. V. Chambers Lieut. G. B. Herridge 

Lieut. V. R. Davies Lieut. P. M. Humme 

Lieut. J. A. Dewart Lieut. R. S. Jackson 

Lieut. M. M. Dillon Lieut S. R. Jeffries 



TENSE INTERLUDE 113 

Lieut. D. A. Mclntosh Lieut. R. H. Morris 

Lieut. J. Maitland Lieut. A. F. Norris 

Lieut. L. McEwan Lieut. A. E. Parker 

Lieut. H. W. Martin Lieut. J. E. Ritchie 

Lieut. A. C. McFarlane Lieut. J. E. Robinson 

Lieut. J. A. McPherson Lieut. C. D. Schwab 

Lieut. W. B. Milner Lieut. H. Shaughnessy 

Lieut. J. R. B. More Lieut. C. G. Warner 

2nd BATTALION C. M. G. C. 
Battalion Headquarters 

Officer Commanding Lieut.-Col. J. G. Weir, D.S.O., M.C. 
Second in Command 
Adjutant Capt. G. N. Douglas 
Quartermaster Lieut. J. Stonehewer 
Signalling Officer- 
Medical Officer 
Paymaster Capt. T. D. Patterson 

Company Officers 

Major J. Basevi Lieut. J. A. McCullough 

Major J. E. McCorkell Lieut. R. M. McKenzie 

Major W. M. Pearce Lieut. F. L. Much 

Capt. J. A. McCamus Lieut. T. H. O Rourke 

Capt. G. W. H. Millican Lieut. W. H. Patterson 

Lieut. G. W. Comstock Lieut. H. J. L. Pearce 

Lieut. P. Cowan Lieut. I. F. Price 

Lieut. R. Edmunds Lieut. J. A. Ramsay 

Lieut. R. Fleming Lieut. N. G. Richardson 

Lieut. C. G. Frost Lieut. S. E. Sacks 

Lieut. G. E. Harley Lieut. H. S. Salisbury 

Lieut. G. Hobson Lieut. H. M. Sibbald 

Lieut. D. S. Jackson Lieut. W. P. Tozer 

Lieut. Francis Layton Lieut. C. W. White 

Lieut. I. G. MacLaren Lieut. A. B. White 

Lieut. A. F. Mahaffey Lieut. L. F. White 

Lieut. H. A. McBurney Lieut. A. F. Williams 







= 
_2 

13 


a 



(M 



TENSE INTERLUDE 



115 



3rd BATTALION C. M. G. C. 

Battalion Headquarters 

Officer Commanding Major W. M. Moorehouse 
Second in Command Major A. M. McFaul 
Adjutant Lieut. G. M. Downton 
Quartermaster Hon. Capt. C. M. Hall 



Company Officers 



Major A. J. R. Parkes 

Capt. F. W. Burnham 

Capt. J. H. Clark 

Capt. K. E. Drinkwater 

Capt. F. M. Garrison 

Capt. J. C. Hartley, M.C., M.M. 

Capt. E. I. J. Ings 

Capt. B. J. Mothersill 

Capt. D. W. Rowatt, M.C. 

Lieut. D. A. Blunden 

Lieut. B. L. Cook 

Lieut. J. D. Clark 

Lieut. H. E. B. Coyne 

Lieut. G. F. Douglas, M.C. 

Lieut. A. G. Fisher 

Lieut. J. B. Fraser 

Lieut. S. C. Gee 

Lieut. A. M. German 

Lieut. F. E. Hinds 

Lieut. R. M. Hopper 



Lieut. C. E. Hulbert 
Lieut. W. H. Hutchens 
Lieut. C. W. Kern 
Lieut. F. W. Landreth 
Lieut. A. R. Madgett 
Lieut. J. R. McLean 
Lieut. A. F. Neatby, M.C., 

D.C.M. 

Lieut. P. W. Newman 
Lieut. F. A. Parkins 
Lieut. G. V. Raynor 
Lieut. H. Rothwell 
Lieut. J. G. Searles, M.C. 
Lieut. G. R. Smith 
Lieut. H. F. Smith 
Lieut. W. N. Smith 
Lieut. E. G. Spalding 
Lieut. J. Thompson 
Lieut. C. W. Tubbs 
Lieut. A. M. Tudhope 



4th BATTALION C. M. G. C. 
Battalion Headquarters 

Officer Commanding Lieut.-Col. M. A. Scott, D.S.O. 

Second in Command Major E. W. Sansom 

Adjutant Capt. H. Ward, M.C. 

Quartermaster Capt. K. Weaver 

Signalling Officer Lieut. H. S. Moss 

Medical Officer Capt. J. W. Laurie 

Paymaster Capt. T. W. Seagram 



116 



THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 



Company Officers 

Major J. C. Britton, D.S.O. Lieut. 

Major L. F. Pearce, M.C. Lieut. 

Capt. B. M. Clerk, M.C. Lieut. 

Capt. H. A. Fowler, M.C. Lieut. 

Capt. I. C. Hall, M.C. Lieut. 

Capt. S. Johnston Lieut. 

Capt. H. T. Logan Lieut. 

Capt. E. L. Rainboth, M.C. Lieut. 

Capt. A. G. Scott, M.C. Lieut. 

Capt. W. G. Williams Lieut. 

Lieut. H. E. Anderson Lieut. 

Lieut. P. W. Barber-Starkey Lieut. 

Lieut. A. L. Bourque, M.C. Lieut. 

Lieut. E. S. Campbell Lieut. 

Lieut. F. I. Carpenter Lieut. 

Lieut. G. E. W. Cook Lieut. 

Lieut. W. H. Duncan Lieut. 

Lieut. 0. B. Eaton Lieut. 

Lieut. C. J. T. French Lieut. 

Lieut. W. J. H. Gill Lieut. 
Lieut. C. S. Grafton 



S. G. Gudgeon 
G. J. Hearn 

F. W. Hooper 

C. R. Hopper, M.C. 

J. T. Hughes 

W. C. Killop 

C. E. Ladler 

N. 0. Leach, M.C. 

H. Lewis 

W. W. R. Mitchell 

H. A. Peverly 

N. P. Pope 

J. A. Riddell 

W. Riddell 

G. T. Roach 
C. J. S. Ryley 
J. D. Sharp 

W. J. A. Stewart 
E. J. L. Stinson 
C. A. Young 



Among the officers transferred in each Division were included 
one major or captain and two lieutenants, all three recommended for 
promotion. The remainder were lieutenants and in all cases the date 
of seniority was unaffected by the eventual transfer of these officers 
to the Machine Gun Corps. The entire personnel were attached to the 
machine gun battalions pending authority for the new organization. 

Twelve officers of each Division, together with 292 out of the 600 
other ranks withdrawn, joined the machine gun battalions at once 
and were trained in machine gun work in the line. 

For the remaining 208 other ranks per Division, a total of 832, 
and for the 25 officers supplied by the C. C. R. C., a special Machine 
Gun Training Depot was formed under the administration of Lieut.- 
Col. C. N. Hill, D.S.O., at Tank Camp, Bois d Ohlah, near Verrelel. 
The instructional staff was in charge of Capt. H. R. Levy, M.M., 
assisted by two officers and 45 other ranks from the C. M. G. D., H. D. 
After 10 days, the school was moved to Fraser Camp, Bois des Ailleux, 
near Mont St. Eloy. 

The following officers were added to the machine gun battalions 
upon the formation of the third companies, the majority of transfers 
from the infantry: 



TENSE INTERLUDE 117 

1st Battalion 

Major R. Murdie Lieut. W. S. Carey 

Capt. L. H. Balfe Lieut. E. E. Duley 

Capt. J. W. Maynard Lieut. H. H. Essex 

Capt. A. D. C. McDermott Lieut. W. R. Hamilton 

Capt. J. Skinner Lieut. J. Hay 

Lieut. V. C. Anderson Lieut. W. A. Liddell 

Lieut. L. R. Anrey Lieut. H. M. Lovell 

Lieut. A. C. Bowles Lieut. W. B. McMullin 

Lieut. B. Bryne Lieut. J. R. B. More 

Lieut. D. H. Campbell Lieut. A. F. Wallace 

2nd Battalion 

Major A. Graham Lieut. S. G. Fildes 

Lieut. C. H. Biddell Lieut. F. J. G. Garneau 

Lieut. C. W. Blair Lieut. H. E. Hopkins 

Lieut. J. R. Burchall Lieut. W. J. H. Krietzer 

Lieut. A. H. Cameron Lieut. A. G. Mercer 

Lieut. A. C. Cleghorn Lieut. A. D. Roughton 

Lieut. H. A. Davis Lieut. W. V. Smart 

Lieut. T. H. Dudley Lieut. A. R. Switzer 

3rd Battalion 

Capt. D. A. Gait, M.C. Lieut. W. J. Godber 

Lieut. A. A. Atkinson Lieut. 0. C. Hughes 

Lieut. P. M. Bradbury Lieut. K. R. Lindsay 

Lieut. G. H. Brown Lieut. P. C. Mulholland 

Lieut. H. V. Copley Lieut. L. S. Roe 

Lieut. R. H. Foulds Lieut. J. D. Shearer 

Lieut. C. R. Garneau Lieut. H. P. Smith 

Lieut. H. E. Gee Lieut. W. F. Tobey 
Lieut. R. H. Werne 

Attached Hon. Capt. R. F. Pinnington (Chaplain). 

4th Battalion 

Capt. C. E. Bailey, D.S.O., M.C. Lieut. H. S. Moss 

Lieut. W. J. A. Fair Lieut. C. R. Parson 

Lieut. W. J. Johnston Lieut. J. H. Patterson 

Lieut. K. Lorimer Lieut. H. R. Simpson, M.M. 

Lieut. F. H. McDonald Lieut. J. M. Snetsinger 

Lieut. D. McGillivray Lieut. W. M. Woodward 
Lieut. C. F. Mandel, M.C. 



118 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

All during April the tense situation hung- ever over Vimy Ridge, 
the Canadians continuing their aggressive attitude not only in heavy 
artillery fire but in daring infantry raids, in which the machine gun 
ners filled their usual role of either providing the barrage alone or 
thickening up the artillery effort. 

The machine gun battalions were inspired by reports of the 
splendid work the Motors had done in front of Amiens, which must 
have its own record in these pages. 

Along the whole line from the North Sea to the Vosges Mountains 
it was realized that the Germans were regaining their strength for 
another gigantic Ludendorff gamble. 

On April 24th he gained Villers-Bretonneux. 

Every day brought the new organization of the machine gun 
battalions to a greater peak of efficiency. Only under the most 
extreme urgency would it have been thought that infantry could be 
absorbed into the machine gun service and trained right in the line. 
But it was done and in the doing the wonderful spirit of the old, com 
pact companies was rebuilt into the larger formations. 

On May 7th, a day before the Germans made their final threat 
at the battered hulk of Ypres and were foiled, the Canadian Corps 
ceased to function in the front line, and for two months was out of 
the line that is all with the exception of the 2nd Division. Gen. 
Byng had the 2nd under the 6th (Imperial) Corps in the Neuville 
Vitasse sector and when the 2nd was finally returned to Gen. Currie s 
command it had been in the line 92 days, during which it had held a 
front of 6,000 yards and by its aggressiveness and resource had 
created a wonderful record. It had not only repulsed a series of local 
attacks but had made 27 raids, captured three officers and 101 other 
ranks, 22 machine guns and two trench mortars. 

It was relieved by the 3rd Division. 

An added grimness had entered the war for the Canadian Corps 
as, between May 19th and 30th, four Canadian hospitals had been 
ruthlessly bombed by German night raiders. Six Canadian nurses 
were killed or died of wounds, nine were wounded and hospital staffs 
and their helpless patients suffered heavy casualties. To many who 
could not regard war as anything but impersonal, this new frightful- 
ness brought a sharp, personal touch of hatred of the enemy. 

One of the first twisted bits of information that facetiously made 
the rounds was that the Canadian Corps was to be sent to Paris as a 
permanent garrison. Canadians did not get that assignment but 
garrisoning the pleasant countryside back of Vimy, untouched by war, 
was as pleasant a task as had fallen to the lot of the Maple Leaf. 

One Infantry Brigade and one Machine Gun Company from each 



TENSE INTERLUDE 119 

of the Divisions out of the line were billeted well forward in support 
of the Imperial Corps in the line. These units were kept at one hour s 
notice from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. 

Intensive open warfare training was the daily regime. It was 
a quick about-turn from the defensive strain under which the Cana 
dians had held Vimy. 

There were no tapes here. There was more flexibility, more dash 
to the daily training as whole brigades, usually supported by a com 
plete machine gun company, moved up to the attack, with tanks 
setting the pace, smoke bombs providing a screen, planes zooming 
overhead indicating by flares machine gun strong points and the "A" 
echelon of machine gun transport developing a "hell for leather" 
school of getting into action that was in the best horse artillery 
tradition. 

Expanded so greatly and so suddenly to meet urgent defensive 
demands, the new machine gun formations found this opposite role 
exhilarating. 

The problems of administering a unit the size of a Machine Gun 
Battalion (1,558 all ranks), possessing several times as much trans 
port as an infantry battalion, were admirably tackled. Major W. B. 
Forster, M.C., Staff Officer to the Corps Machine Gun Officer, visited 
each Machine Gun Battalion in turn, introducing a system of adminis 
tration which would be common to all. 

The training was hard, even gruelling at times, but still was 
rest as contrasted with the line, even if the increased shelling of back 
areas by long-range German naval guns and nightly bombing raids 
often broke into the dazzling moonlight nights which bathed this 
rugged, pleasant landscape back of Vimy. 

In this intensive open warfare training it was noticeable that all 
officers were urged to use their own initiative as machine gunners and 
it had its basis in a memorandum issued by the Canadian Corps, after 
preparation by General Brutinel. The memorandum dealt with many 
questions of command and liaison with the infantry which had been 
wrapped in uncertainty and had been the cause of a great deal of 
misunderstanding between the Infantry and the Machine Gun Corps. 

Under the heading of "Organization," this memorandum states 
that "the battalion is the unit for administration and training." 

"The company has no administrative function. It is a convenient 
echelon for co-ordination of the machine gun batteries, the super 
vision of their tactical handling and the maintenance of good liaison 
with the infantry. 

"The battery is essentially the tactical unit and will be the 
smallest unit detailed for detachment to infantry brigades or bat- 



120 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

talions. It is self-contained as regards command, transport and 
personnel, except signallers, who are with the Headquarters of the 

Company. 

"There is no similarity between the Infantry Battalions and 
Machine Gun Battalions with regard to administration of tactics. A 
Machine Gun Battalion can be more closely compared to Divisional 
Artillery, both in its organization and in its tactical distribution." 

Under the heading of "Tactical Employment," the memorandum 

says : 

"The Machine Gun Service must be regarded as a distinctive arm 
with tactics entirely its own. In all respects it is intermediate 
between the Infantry and Artillery, its tactics being radically differ 
ent from the former, and approximating to but not being identical 
with those of the latter." 

It must be thoroughly realized that the principle governing the 
employment of machine gun units is that it is their duty to support 
the infantry in all phases of the fight and to co-operate constantly 
with them. But they are not part of the Infantry and must not be 
considered as such. 

Under the heading of "Command" there is established the fact 
that Machine Gun Battalions are Divisional troops and should be 
employed to support Infantry in accordance with the plans of the 
G. O. C. Division. 

"It is essential that, under all conditions, the machine gun 
resources of a Division should be kept as fluid as possible and that 
their distribution on the Divisional front should be based solely on 
tactical considerations." 

Again, in part, the memorandum notes that: 
"A Machine Gun Commander should be given definite orders by 
the Infantry Commander, to whom he is tactically attached, as to 
what is required of him, but he should be allowed as much freedom 
of action as possible in carrying out these orders and should be kept 
informed of all changes and developments of the situation which may 
affect his action. . . ." 

Under the heading of "Liaison," which is a resume of the 
normal requirements between all arms, there are several significant 
paragraphs : 

"In a retirement, the definite stopping power of the machine guns 
should be utilized by Infantry Commanders to the utmost. Infantry 
instinctively reform under cover of fire from machine gun batteries, 
which are the natural rallying points for them. But under the condi 
tions which make such action necessary it is not likely that machine 
gun personnel will be available to make the liaison; therefore all 







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122 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

Infantry Commanders, whatever their rank, should be impressed with 
the necessity of initiating and maintaining liaison with the machine 
guns in such circumstances. 

"It is the duty of the Commander of the Infantry force to 
arrange, automatically, for the protection, particularly of the flanks, 
of any Machine Gun Units which are co-operating with him and, in 
consultation with the Machine Gun Commander, to make definite 
arrangements for any advance, counter-attack or other tactical 
maneuver." 

Thus it will be seen that the Machine Gun Service had not only 
grown in stature but as well in status effecting its tactical independ 
ence and in the initiative and latitude defined in the employment of 
the weapon. 

Training continued throughout June. 

A spearhead was being polished day by day. The Canadian Corps 
was now almost as numerically strong as an army. Day by day it 
purred with more power. Two British Divisions, just back from 
Palestine, were sent to train with the Canadians. 

On July 1st came a memorable break, when Dominion Day was 
celebrated far behind the lines. It was a typical "back home" pro 
gram, lacrosse furnishing the purely national touch among the sports. 
Two squadrons of Canadian pilots droned overhead to prevent any 
curious German planes from disturbing the day. Thirty-five thousand 
men, including elements of Scottish Divisions training with them, 
enjoyed a wonderful program, and among the notables there were 
the Duke of Connaught and Marshal Petain. 

Two weeks later the "rest," which was to be looked back upon 
as something that must have been a dream, an elysium of the imagi 
nation in contrast to days which brought no respite, came to an end. 

On July 15th the Canadians went back in the line, relieving the 
Imperial 17th Corps. 

The Germans, fearful of an impending attack they deduced from 
the Canadians presence and sure knowledge of the open warfare 
training the Canadians had been undergoing, gave them a warm 
welcome back to the Vimy front. The Canadians returned it and more. 

War was back for Currie s men. 



MOTORS OFF INTO THE BLUE 
CHAPTER VI. 

FOUR motor batteries of the 1st C. M. G. C. Brigade were in 
Divisional reserve positions on the Lens front and one was in 
the unit s camp at Vedrel when Ludendorff s legions launched their 
drive against the juncture of the British and French armies in front 
of Amiens on March 21st. 

By the afternoon of the next day the Brigade had received orders 
to move to the 5th Army front. By 2.30 a.m. of April 23rd the four 
batteries in the line were at Vedrel and by 5.30 a.m. the entire Brigade 
was under way, headed south, under command of Lieut.-Col. W. K. 
Walker, D.S.O., M.C., the genial giant who had, up to March 17th, 
been in command of the Machine Gun Squadron of the Canadian Corps 
Cavalry. 

The cavalcade, as it left a sputtering exhaust in its wake, was 
composed of five batteries. "A" and "B" Batteries each had eight 
Vickers guns mounted on four armored cars. "C" (Bordens), "D" 
(Batons) and "E" (Yukons) each had eight Vickers guns, were 
designated as Motor Batteries and they were transported in light box 
cars, from which the crews would fight as infantry machine gunners. 

"The Corps Commander wishes you the best of luck and has every 
confidence that you will do more than well," was the message received 
by the Motors from Gen. Sir Arthur Currie just before they pushed 
off. 

The eight armored cars in the long convoy chugging its way 
southward were the surviving veterans of many vehicular changes 
which had seen the motorcycle elements of the Motors discarded 
except as a means of officers keeping control over the widely-flung 
units. 

Like many elements of the Cavalry, the Motors had been forced 
to fight as "dismounted troops," while their metallic steeds were 
threatened by the rust of inaction. The Somme was the first of the 
later battles in which the mechanized cavalry role always envisioned 
for the Motors had been promised. The promised "break-through" 
never came. The Motors were doing their barrage task at Passchen- 
daele when they might have been tuning up for a more spectacular, 
more fitting task in Gen. Byng s temporarily successful thrust for 



124 



THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 




Cleaning Armoured Cars, Canadian Motor M. G. Brigade 

Cambrai in November and had missed that one glorious opportunity 
of which the Canadian Cavalry took such startling advantage. 

Now as they roared south they were heading right for the type 
of open warfare for which they had been hoping and praying these 
last few years but it was to be the reverse side of the picture they 
were to see, and it was to be painted on a dark, dismal background of 
tones when first it burst upon their view. 

The convoy chugged into Amiens at 12.45 p.m. and just minutes 
later were again on their way to 5th Army Headquarters at Villers 
Brettoneux. There, Gen. Sir Hubert Gough met them, warmly com 
mented upon their timely arrival and, in admitting the seriousness of 
the situation which had overwhelmed his army, said that the Canadian 
Motors represented the only available reinforcements. This was at 
4 o clock in the afternoon and just a few hours later batteries had 
been dispatched to fill menacing gaps which had been opened in the 
sadly-battered ranks of the 5th Army. 

The Eaton and Yukon Batteries, under Capt. H. V. Muerling, 
M.C., reported to the 18th Corps at Roye and "B" and "C" Batteries, 
under the command of Capt. Holland, were on their way to Corbie, 
on which the hard-pressed 7th Corps was based. "A" Battery was 
held in reserve. 

As the batteries moved along the roads to their alloted tasks 
they had time to reflect why well-conducted retreats get almost as 
favorable attention in the study of military history as successful 



MOTORS OFF INTO THE BLUE 125 

attacks. In a matter of moments they were breasting the tide of 
retreat, with its rumors tossing wildly, gaunt-eyed stragglers showing 
only too eloquently what they had experienced, on roads choked with 
transport and refugees. 

There is no blinking the fact that by the time the Motors arrived 
there was definite demoralization among British troops. Garrisons 
of strong redoubts and strong points had fought with a gallantry 
never surpassed in the annals of British arms, but the enemy, by sheer 
weight of numbers, a new infiltrating style of attack and a terrific 
gas and shell bombardment, aided above all by a dense fog on the 
morning of March 21st, had realized his hopes. 

On the 3rd Army front the defences, though pushed back here 
and there, had not been broken. 

But on the 5th Army front the Germans had broken through and 
by the end of the first day the whole of Gough s army was everywhere 
in retreat. The next day the retreat was continued while British and 
French reserves were rushed into the back areas of the crumbling 
front. The Germans had made the most rapid and greatest ground- 
gaining thrust on the Western Front since the fighting had settled 
into trench warfare. They had pushed the British back from in front 
of St. Quentin as far as the Somme near Peronne and that in fact 
two-thirds of the territory out of which the Germans had retreated 
in 1917 was again overrun and the enemy already claimed 30,000 
prisoners and 600 guns. 

Volumes have been written on the battle and it would take a 
bulky volume in itself to describe in detail the fortunes of the Motors 
in the next hectic weeks as they shifted over 35 miles of front, and 
so swiftly as to give the enemy the impression of far greater strength 
than they possessed. We can at best try to get a panoramic view of 
the Motors as they so spectacularly and heroically fought against 
tremendous odds and in doing so gained added recognition for the 
whole Canadian Machine Gun Corps. 

As a result of a reconnaissance made by Capt. Muerling in the 
early hours of March 24th, Capt. Harkness with his eight Eaton guns 
was to assist in a counter-attack of the 183rd Brigade, aimed at the 
enemy who had gained a footing on the west bank of the canal north 
of Bethencourt. Four Yukon guns (Babb) were detailed to the 60th 
Brigade front which was being hard pressed by enemy crossing at 
Caniszy, Offiscy and Voyennes and the remaining four guns were to 
protect an artillery brigade northwest of Nesle. By 10 o clock the 
various detachments had left for their tasks. 

Lieut. Babb, severely wounded, a few hours later was in the hands 
of the Germans and the forward gun crew to which he was making his 



126 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

way was knocked out. The 60th Brigade had started to withdraw 
but the infantry rallied around the other five guns east of Mombleaux 
Cemetery and this position was held until four o clock in the after 
noon. A report says : The five guns obtained excellent targets, espe 
cially on the Ham-Nesle road, where the enemy advanced in column. 
Several belts were fired at between 200 and 300 yards. They had even 
scattered enemy machine gunners as they sought to get into action. 
By four o clock our infantry withdrew across the west bank of the 
canal and that night the five guns were covering Bacquencourt bridge. 
The other Yukon guns saw no action as the artillery they were sent 
to protect had limbered up and they rejoined the Batons on the 183rd 
Brigade front that night. 

The Batons arrived for their task just as the enemy laid down a 
heavy barrage on Mesnil St. Nicaisse in preparation for debouching 
from Bethencourt to the west. Infantry on the plateau west knew 
nothing of the 183rd Brigade s projected attack as six guns (Marshall) 
got there at noon. The six guns got into action at once, being joined 
by two other guns which had been detailed to assist a Royal Scots 
Battalion which could not be found near Fargny. The cars were 
riddled by shrapnel as the drivers had rushed them one by one through 
the barrage to off-load the crews. About one p.m., when the detach 
ment commander was trying to get in touch with troops on his left, 
he found instead in low ground between the battery positions and 
Fontaine-Les-Pargny a large group of 500 Germans sitting on the 
ground and apparently enjoying a siesta. The eight guns concen 
trated their fire at once on this most exceptional target and inflicted 
severe losses on the completely surprised enemy. However, the exul 
tation was short-lived for hardly had our guns ceased firing than the 
enemy machine gunners in front and from both flanks poured such 
an accurate fire into the Canadians positions that 50 per cent of the 
Batons became casualties. 

Finding themselves alone, the Batons were ordered to retreat 
by half batteries and with only two men per gun; it was a slow 
business. As they withdrew they found no infantry with which to 
co-operate and halted for awhile 1,500 yards south of Morchais. Here 
the infantry told them that Nesle and Mesnil St. Nicaisse had fallen. 
Eventually, together with an infantry captain and 50 men, the seven 
guns remaining established a line immediately northwest of Dreslin- 
court behind an old belt of wire. The infantry decided to withdraw 
but the Gunners remained throughout the afternoon, later finding 
they were 2,000 yards in front of our line. A British pilot enlivened 
the afternoon by diving low and spraying them with machine gun 
fire but, fortunately for the exposed battery, his aim was poor. 



MOTORS OFF INTO THE BLUE 127 

Word was later brought up that the 24th Division had established 
a line to the rear and the Batons went back to positions "E" and "N" 
of Hyencourt-le-Petit for night defence. From the O. C. of the Division 
the Canadians wangled a few tins of bully beef with which to top off 
an exciting, thrill-packed day. 

Capt. Harkness one Eaton gun with the hard-pressed 183rd 
Brigade had been joined by four Yukon guns and the detachment 
followed the withdrawal until at eight o clock in the evening it became 
evident that the enemy would attempt an outflanking movement on 
Nesle from the north during the night or early next morning. Posi 
tions were finally established in front of the railway at Nesle between 
the station and the Nesle-Dreslincourt and the Mesnil-le-Petit Mani- 
court roads. 

In the afternoon of March 24th "A" Battery (armoured), in 
reserve under Major Battersby, had been hurriedly dispatched to meet 
a menacing situation developing on the right flank of the 19th Corps 
between Bethencourt and Pargny, where the enemy was endeavoring 
to cross the Somme between St. Christ and Falvy. At 5.30 p.m. 
Major Battersby in one car and Lieut. Cuttle in a second went via 
Licourt and Cizancourt. At Licourt they ran into shelling and then 
turned south along the road by the Somme canal at Sancourt. An 
enemy plane zoomed down but was driven off. A motorcyclist scout 
reported a body of 50 Germans near the road junction of Epesancourt 
and Battersby, warning a body of Sherwood Foresters, darted down 
the road to dispose of this group. They scattered them under a hail 
of gunfire and then kept on going until they ran into German bombers. 
The cars had three hours more of potting enemy parties across the 
canal and searching Epenancourt and nearby fields with fire. 

Meanwhile "B" Battery (Holland) and the Bordens (Nicholson) 
had reported to the 7th Corps area and been sent on to the 21st 
Division near Maricourt. They did not reach there until 6 a.m. owing 
to the congestion of the roads. It was about 8 a.m. when the batteries 
reached the junction of the Maricourt- Vlery-Hem roads. Heavy 
smoke clouds were rolling over from the German line as they found 
their rendezvous, but there was no other activity. However the calm 
was only momentary for hardly had they looked over the country 
before the commanders were asked to rally the infantry for the 
defence of a trench running half way up the ridge back of Clery 
Village. Enemy artillery was laying a heavy barrage on the Clery 
and Maricourt road and masses of the enemy were emerging out of 
the smoke screen, following up our infantry as they fell back. Two 
Borden guns obtained good shooting as the enemy entered Clery 
before a shell blew up one of the guns. Then the other crew was 



128 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

blown up and Lieut. West and Corp. Johnson manned the gun and 
with the fire of their revolvers held the enemy at bay until they were 
able to get their gun out of the village. The guns of the two batteries 
were now in position on both sides of the Clery-Maricourt road along 
an old shallow trench in front of a strong belt of wire. From these 
positions the guns covered the ground to the left of the village and 
they made excellent use of the view, smashing enemy formations with 
an intense fire. As the Germans continued to approach the infantry 
fell back but were rallied by Holland and Nicholson. There was in 
all a garrison of 100 men, holding 500 yards of trench. Capt. Holland 
was seriously wounded as he went out to rescue a wounded man in 
front of the trench. He could not be taken out. Three cars had been 
ordered back because of the intensity of the shelling and a fourth 
could not be moved because of its proximity to a dump of explosives 
set afire by a shell. Corp. Hicks and Pte. Rymfer were killed as they 
went up to move the stranded car and then Pte. Henderson of the 
Bordens and an unknown "B" Battery man volunteered to start and 
drive the car away. Capt, Holland, with other wounded, was placed 
in the car, but the former died as he was being moved from the car 
to a stretcher. 

Both batteries were suffering severe casualties and Lieut. Snyder 
of "B" and Lieuts. West and Waldron of the Bordens, who were 
observing, were all shot through the head and killed instantly. Enemy 
snipers and machine guns had made getting ammunition up almost 
impossible and the Germans were gradually creeping up so close to 
the guns that they were using hand grenades. Three or four of the 
guns were out of action. Just then a small party of infantry, by 
rushes, came up and occupied a trench 50 yards to the rear. At 2 p.m. 
Capt. Nicholson, the only officer left, decided to withdraw to this 
trench occupied, it developed, by the 15th Cheshires. By four o clock 
Capt. Nicholson had only four guns left and these were asked to cover 
the withdrawal of the Cheshires to a line between Hem and Haurepas. 
At five o clock there were only two guns left. 

"Shortly afterwards," says an account of this epic, "the enemy 
launched a strong attack, breaking through on the left flank and ad 
vancing in large numbers from the front. Our infantry had withdrawn 
but the machine gunners remained in action until practically surround 
ed. One of the two remaining guns was put out of action a few minutes 
after the attack commenced, but the other was fired until the Germans 
were within 50 yards by Pte. Finlayson. The few machine gunners 
surviving crawled from the trench and in rushes followed the road 
in the direction of Hem. During those last wild moments Capt. 
Nicholson received a severe wound which caused the loss of his right 



MOTORS OFF INTO THE BLUE 129 

arm. Eventually the survivors under Battery Sergt.-Major Frechette 
reached the cars at Maricourt. 

And thus ended the Motors first day a day of high heroism, 
remarkable initiative and wonderful determination to stem the tide 
of retreat and demoralization. As a day it offered many variations 
of machine gun roles and was to be repeated in day after day of 
tenacious fighting against heart-breaking odds. As a day, too, it had 
exacted a tragic price. 

Early in the morning of March 25th the 20th Division, having 
been pressed back during the night, was holding the line from 
Buverchy along the Libemont road as far north as Quignery in 
conjunction with the 22nd French Division and from Quignery to 
Mesnil-le-Petit. On the right of the 20th the 30th Division, with 
part of the 62nd French Division, carried on the line southward as 
far as the bend in the canal. In spite of the French reinforcements, 
the situation remained critical and Gen. Spooner, commanding the 
183rd Brigade, ordered Capt. Harkness to the outskirts of Nesle, there 
to gather all stragglers, while undertaking a similar task himself 
near Froidmond. 

The enemy attack, already growing bolder, had as its objective 
the enlargement of the gap between the 18th and 19th Corps. The 
four Yukon guns inflicted great damage on the enemy in covering the 
retreat of the infantry. The machine gunners held their fire until 
the enemy were within 500 yards and then raked their ranks with fire 
under which they broke. The Germans brought a whizz-bang battery 
up against the Emma Gees and, though they extricated themselves, 
three guns were knocked out, one of them being that lone Eaton gun 
in this area. Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders aided Lieut. Black 
and four men work two guns until 8.30 a.m., when they retired 
through Nesle to a line between Nesle and Herly, overlooking the 
river at Ighom, established by Harkness with the stragglers he had 
gathered in. 

Over on the right flank three Yukon guns on the high ground 
east of Cresey concentrated their fire on advancing Germans at 2,000 
yards and broke up formations. The enemy, however, kept the pres 
sure up and by outflanking forced the machine gunners withdrawal. 
He occupied Herley and Languevois and made progress to Cresey 
but could make no advance along the Nesle-Roye road all afternoon. 

The 59th Infantry Brigade and the 183rd were now merged 
around Billancourt but how great was the confusion and how rapidly 
the situation might change was shown in the experience of a driver 
of a Napier box car, who, having taken one load of rations and ammu 
nition to a designated spot, went back for a second, only to find the 




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L. 
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MOTORS OFF INTO THE BLUE 131 

Germans in possession. Under intense fire he turned the car around 
and escaped. 

Not only were the guns doing great execution but they were 
proving to be rallying points for dispirited stragglers. 

By the morning of the 25th the right flank of the 8th Division 
had been bent back from the Somme towards Licourt. The situation 
on the front between the 8th Division and Nesle was critical. At 
7 a.m. the 24th Division launched a counter-attack from their posi 
tions near Ryercourt-le-Petit in the direction of Dreslincourt. The 
Eaton guns (Marshall) were supporting the 73rd Brigade. 

The attacking brigade, after the incessant fighting since the 
morning of March 21st, was only battalion strength. None of the 
machine guns in position had to be moved forward to cover the attack. 
Five were in excellent position along the Fouchette-Ominicourt road 
and two about 400 yards northeast of Hyencourt-le-Petit. The gun 
ners had a complete view and were set to fire at 2,000, 2,500 and 3,000 
ranges. The tired 73rd Brigade made a courageous start but a wither 
ing fire broke up the attack half-way between Bersaucourt and 
Dreslincourt. It halted momentarily and then retirement of small 
groups grew into a general withdrawal. The gunners then reversed 
their firing program, firing it backward to cover the retirement. The 
attacking brigade on the right were themselves heavily attacked at 
Curchy and retired to their original positions. That day the Batons 
conformed to the infantry withdrawals but by noon they were reduced 
to two men per gun and often one ; they had no ammunition, no rations 
and the men were utterly exhausted, so the detachment commander 
withdrew them through Chaulnes to Bayonvillers, where the men got 
some food and a little respite. 

"A" Battery armoured cars on March 25th were co-operating 
with the 24th Infantry Brigade and at 4.30 a.m. left Marchelpot for 
Cizancourt via Licourt. Two cars stopped at a factory to be ready to 
support an attack by our infantry at 9.15. Two other cars, com 
manded by Major Battersby and Lieut. Adams, went to Cizancourt 
and then down the road toward Epenancourt. 

But before our attack could get started the enemy launched his 
at 8.50 and from a sunken road the crews of the two cars fired very 
effectively, delaying the Germans for a short time. 

Three cars were slowly backing up the roads covering our 
infantry s retirement while one was almost cut off as the Germans 
entered Marchelpot, compelling its retirement by way of Licourt. 
While the two cars of Battersby and Adams were withdrawing 
through Licourt the Germans were entering the village from the 
south. Both crews put up a splendid fight, firing at the Germans 



132 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

from almost point-blank range until Major Battersby together with 
the driver and the two crews in his car were killed. The other car 
tried a daring rescue but was turned back by a withering fire. In 
another minute this car was hit as well and several of the crew 
wounded. The cars were then withdrawn to Villers-Brettoneaux to 
replenish ammunition and reorganize badly-riddled gun crews. 

In the afternoon of March 25th all of the Divisions of the 19th 
Corps were ordered to withdraw to the line Hattencourt-Chaulnes- 
Ablaincourt-Estres-Assevillers-Herecourt-Frise line. The command 
of the 18th Corps passed from the 5th Army to the 3rd French Army. 
The 5th Army now commanded only the 19th Corps, holding the front 
from Hattencourt to the Somme. Also all troops of the 7th Corps 
north of the Somme were transferred to the 5th Corps to become a 
part of the 3rd British Army. 

Enemy pressure was maintained against the 7th Corps and 
Guinchy and Thones Wood were the scene of heavy fighting. During 
the night of March 25th-26th the line of defence was taken back to 
new positions between Bray-sur-Somme and Albert. 

The 26th was a fateful calendar date for on that day Marshal 
Foch was appointed to the Supreme Command of the Allied Armies. 

On the same day the mixed force of details, cooks, batmen,, 
stragglers and Canadian and American Engineers which had been 
organized under Gen. Grant, Engineer Chief of the 5th Army, was 
taken over by Gen. Carey, and as Carey s Force provided such a last- 
ditch show of aggressiveness and determination that its 2,200- 
strength the last thin line of reserves behind the tired, weary, 
battered British Divisions was multiplied many times in inspira 
tional effect. It was the line interposed between the driving German 
hordes and Amiens, their eagerly-sought objective. To stiffen this 
last line of so pitifully few, a 10-gun machine gun battery was hastily 
formed and that night was in position in Aubercourt, Marcelcave and 
Hamel. 

The morning of the same day had seen the 20th Division with 
draw to the Les Quesnel area and Capt. Muerling with the remnants 
of the Eaton and Yukon batteries were located on the southern out 
skirts of the town. 

The situation west and northwest of Roye was critical. The 
French 22nd and 62nd Divisions were withdrawing in a south-westerly 
direction towards the valley of the Avre River and the British troops, 
after extricating themselves from a bad spot, were marching in a 
northwesterly direction and thus a gap was ever widening. The 
Germans had Andechy and were close to Erches and trying to push 
through a gap south of Rosieres and between Meharicourt and 



MOTORS OFF INTO THE BLUE 133 

Fresnoy-les-Roye. The 20th and 30th Divisions, supposed to have 
been relieved the night before, found themselves in the thick of the 
fighting. 

The G. O. C. 20th Division had told the tired, depleted machine 
gunners that they were to be kept out of the line 24 hours, but 20 
minutes after the order was rescinded when it was found that the 
enemy had broken through and captured Fouquescourt. The detach 
ment had only seven guns, most of them salvaged on the way back 
from the Nesle-Roye front to Le Quesnel. The guns were mounted 
on light auxiliary tripods for the heavy Mark IV tripods had been 
found too heavy in the constant moving of a rearguard action. Capt. 
Harkness was in command of the detachment which by 12.30 p.m. 
had taken up positions at Rouvroy and Warvillers. 

The defence of Rouvroy had been organized by a Royal Engineer 
officer, who had stragglers and men from every conceivable branch 
of the service under him. During the afternoon the enemy made 
several unsuccessful attempts to advance north and northwest from 
Parvillers and Fouquescort, but the Motors held them off, inflicting 
heavy losses. Towards night things had quietened down and an inde 
pendent patrol established on the Rouvroy-Parvillers road during the 
night established the fact that heavy tractors were evidently hauling 
heavy guns up to the front. Capt. Muerling had meanwhile salvaged 
five more Vickers and one Lewis gun with two-man crews. The Lewis 
gun was sent up to Rouvroy and just at the first streak of dawn on 
the 27th it rattled out death to the occupants of a German staff car 
being driven down the Fouquescourt-Rouvroy road. From 75 yards 
away the machine gunners tried to reach their quarry but were driven 
off by a hail of bullets from Fouquescourt Village. 

The eight machine guns in front of Rouvroy did magnificent work 
as they drove off an enemy attack in the morning. South of the Roye 
road the situation was menacing, with German cavalry pushing 
through the woods along the Avre River, driving in the outposts of 
the 36th Division as they advanced against Querbigny. By noon the 
guns were withdrawn from Rouvroy but Warvillers was still held. 
Capt. Harkness, dashing back into Rouvroy for some ammunition left 
there, was blown off his motorcycle by a shell. Regaining conscious 
ness, he walked back to Le Quesnel to report before being evacuated 
to hospital. 

Five of eight men, manning four guns in Rouvroy, had been 
knocked out and when they got back to Warvillers reinforcements 
arrived just in time to help them bring a German attack to a 
standstill. 

Earlier in the afternoon four guns (Vosburgh) in front of Han- 



134 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

crest scattered German cavalry trying to advance southeast towards 
Warvillers and Hancrest. The Germans were pressing on toward 
Bouchoir and four guns under Black were rushed by car through 
Beaufort and Le Quesnel and in half an hour were in action at the 
crossroads one mile west of Bouchoir. They had been told to hold 
the enemy at all costs and for an hour and a half they had made-to- 
order targets as the Germans repeatedly tried to advance. The G. 0. C. 
20th Division personally thanked the detachment for their work. 

With nightfall enemy activity decreased and during the night of 
March 27th-28th the French 133rd Division relieved the 20th 
(British). The machine gunners were the last to go, the relief being 
completed on the morning of March 28th. 

From the morning of the 22nd, when they had two hours sleep 
and another two hours brief respite on the 24th, the survivors of the 
Eaton and Yukon batteries had had no rest; they had been subjected 
to terrific strain and terrible casualties. They were gaunt and 
staggering as they found rest at Hebcourt, where the 1st C. M. G. C. 
Brigade Headquarters had been established. 

Meanwhile "A" Battery s three armoured cars operating with 
the 19th Corps on the night of March 26th-27th, in view of the serious 
and dangerous situation created along the Somme by the withdrawal 
of the 3rd Army troops from Bray westwards, were ordered to report 
to the 16th Division at Hamel in order to guard the crossings over 
the Somme at Cerisy and thus prevent the enemy from outflanking 
the left of the 19th Corps front at Proyart. They arrived at 4 a.m. 
on the 27th. Four guns were placed close to the northern outskirts 
of Cerisy and two others were placed on the south side of the village 
to cover the right bridge. The cars were withdrawn a little distance. 
About 10 a.m. the enemy, who was rapidly following the withdrawal 
of the right flank of the 3rd Army, appeared to be massing his troops 
north and northwest of Shapilly, apparently for a thrust southward 
over the canal. The four-gun detachment just at this moment noticed 
a large enemy group which turned out to be machine gunners. The 
Germans were given time to mount their guns and then our gunners 
opened up a devastating fire from 1,200 yards, killing and wounding 
many and scattering the remainder. "A" Battery guns remained at 
Cerisy for three hours, pouring 15,000 rounds across the canal. 

The next day, March 28th, the same guns were in Rosieres, Vrely 
and back in Caix and they covered the withdrawal of British and 
French troops, fighting side by side, and by way of variety took 
on a flight of 11 enemy planes, apparently looking for a battery of 
French 75 s. They moved out of their positions to the rear and a 
rain of German shells fell on the spot they had just vacated. Then 



MOTORS OFF INTO THE BLUE 135 

they returned, dismounting two guns and using two from a forward 
armoured car and caught the enemy pushing across country between 
Rosieres, Vrely and Caix. They had another brush with the enemy 
on the outskirts of Caix before retiring at 7 p.m., picking up about a 
dozen wounded on their way to Gentelles. 

Two armoured cars were operating on the road between Villers- 
Brettoneaux and Warfuse-Abancourt, but their chief diversion on 
that sector during the day was an exchange of shots with several 
hostile planes which dived at them. Two armoured cars were also 
operated along the Amiens-Roye road on the 28th and did great 
execution. One car ran into a ditch as it maneuvred up and down 
the road but the crew, despite intense rifle and machine gun fire, 
succeeded in getting it back on the road and safely away. 

The wounding of Lieut. Green and Sergt. Morrison as they went 
down the Villers-Breattoneaux-Warfuse-Abancourt road to bring in 
two cars set the stage for a daring rescue of the officer by Pte. Mc- 
Kenzie on a solo motorcycle, who placed the wounded man on the 
rear. He went back again for Henderson, but the latter had sought 
a first aid post himself. 

By the night of the 28th the sorely pressed British troops held 
approximately the Amiens defence line, south of the Somme from 
Mezieres to Ignacourt and Hamel. The 20th Division held the front 
south of the River Luce and Carey s Force the front between the 
Luce and the Somme. On the evening of the 28th the Motors inflicted 
many casualties on the enemy when he attacked and captured Marcel- 
cave and when pressure was resumed on the 19th Corps on the 
morning of the 29th and Mezieres had to be abandoned, the enemy 
attacks east and south of Hamel were repulsed. 

In the swiftly-changing picture the 29th brought, reorganization 
of the much-battered Motors was effected, remnants of the Eatons 
and Yukons being formed into a 16-gun battery under Muerling, who 
gathered up an additional 16 guns from Carey s Force, manned by 
British gunners. By 7 p.m. that day the 32 guns were in position 
between the Luce and the Somme Rivers. 

At daybreak on the 30th this front became very active and the 
enemy gradually pushed the French out of Moreuil Wood by sheer 
weight of numbers and, regardless of losses, he succeeded in driving 
our infantry off the left bank of the Luce and occupying Demuin. 
Fourteen machine guns on the north bank of the Luce did most effec 
tive work at ranges of 1,700 and 2,000 against the Germans advancing 
into Demuin. 

"The Germans," says a machine gun report in part, "were in 
platoons marching in fours along the top of the ridge in a westerly 




a. 
c 
cs 
if 



- 



o 




rt 





* 
V. 



MOTORS OFF INTO THE BLUE 137 

direction." With this inviting flank exposed to them, the Canadians 
had good shooting and made the most of it. Another group of guns 
on the road running due north from Aubercourt had intermittent 
shooting gallery practice at German columns moving up a road sunken 
in many spots. It was a fantastic target in its way, suddenly bobbing 
up and then as quickly fading into a sunken portion of the road and 
disappearing from sight. Another detachment was heavily engaged 
west of Marcelcave. 

Two armoured cars co-operated on the morning of the 30th in 
the Avre sector, when a brilliant counter-attack by the Canadian 
Cavalry Brigade cleared the Germans out of Moreuil Wood. The gun 
ners guarded the gap between the cavalry and the 20th Division. 

The progress of the enemy north of the Luce was definitely 
checked and in the afternoon of the 30th his troops were finally driven 
back to about the line of the Aubercourt-Marcelcave road by deter 
mined counter-attacks carried out by elements of the 66th Division 
and the 9th Australian Brigade. Further strong counter-attacks in 
the evening restored our line south of the Luce and slightly later that 
night hostile attacks on the both sides of the Somme were repulsed 
by the 1st Cavalry and 3rd Australian Divisions. 

That night Carey s famous force was broken up as it was relieved 
by the 1st British Reserve Division (3rd Australian) to make an 
appearance on the 5th Army front, but the machine gunners remained 
in the line. 

March 31st brought a continuance of the fighting between the 
Luce and Avre, our troops being driven from Moreuil Station to Han- 
gard. One of the armoured cars returning from a sortie ran into 
heavy enemy shelling just south-east of Hourges and dived into a 
shell-hole. Three of the crew became casualties as the guns were 
removed. Later that day a party went back to get the abandoned 
car, but it had been hit squarely by shells and was just smoking debris. 

There were plenty of alarms but no more severe fighting until 
early on the morning of April 4th, when a series of attacks, while 
generally repulsed, caused the British line to make hurried shifts. 

That afternoon the Motors, who were reorganizing preparatory 
to reporting back to the Canadian Corps, were again called on to "hold 
Villers-Brettonneaux at all costs." 

Twelve guns going up on the left were heavily shelled astride 
the Warfuse-Amiens road, four other ranks being killed and 26 
wounded. An enemy shell exploded on, and set fire to, a lorry filled 
with ammunition just as it was being unloaded by men of the Yukon 
and Eaton Batteries on the eastern outskirts of Villers-Brettoneaux. 
Two charabanc cars were near by and, despite the danger from explod- 



138 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

ing ammunition, Pte. Wegg volunteered to start them. And start 
them he did and daringly drove them away. Just before dusk, Lieut. 
Black, who had no men left, joined the armoured cars and, taking one 
quick dash down the Villers-Brettoneaux road, poured enfilade fire 
into enemy positions on both sides of the road and withdrew without 
suffering a single casualty. 

Six Borden crews were sent in as reinforcements about 6.30 p.m. 
that day and as they took up positions northeast of Villers- 
Brettoneaux an enemy barrage came down. Expecting an enemy 
attack, these guns opened fire at 2,500 yards on selected enemy posi 
tions and it was later reported that this fire had broken up a large 
enemy concentration, apparently prepared for an attack. 

The situation remained comparatively calm and uneventful until 
on the night of the 8th-9th the Borden, Eaton and Yukon Batteries 
were relieved and the next morning the armoured cars were with 
drawn. On the morning of the 10th the 1st C.M. G. C. Brigade 
received orders to rejoin the Canadian Corps. 

There was praise everywhere for the gallant Motors and they 
had richly earned it. Thrown into the confusion and chaos of a 
retreat and into a strange and unfamiliar front, over which there 
hung at the time the atmosphere of almost a complete rout, the Cana 
dian machine gunners had shown remarkable steadiness and by their 
initiative and daring and the ubiquity of their great mobility had 
produced an effect upon the exultant enemy that was greatly out of 
proportion to their 40 guns. 

The Motors paid a heavy price in a display that will always stand 
out as perhaps the most all-round performance of its power the 
machine gun was able to give on the Western Front. 

In those days between March 24th and April 7th -- days and 
nights of constant strain, with hardly a respite - - the casualty sum 
mary of the Motors was as follows: 

Killed Wounded Missing Totals 

Officers 5 8 1 14 

Other Ranks 20 100 10 130 

Totals 25 108 11 144 

The total of 144 does include the casualties suffered by the British 
machine gunners attached to the Canadian Motor Machine Gun 
Batteries during the same period. 




BATTLE OF AMIENS 
AUGUST STH TO 25TH 

CHAPTER VII. 

"J July 6th, the Canadian Corps was warned to relieve the 17th 
Corps in the line and on July 15th, the day that the Germans 
launched two more powerful attacks against the French, the relief 
had been completed, with the 2nd, 1st and 4th Divisions in the line 
from Telegraph Hill to Oppy and the 3rd Division, under the 6th 
Corps, in the Neuville Vitasse area. 

News filtered through that the Germans were repulsed with 
heavy losses east of Rheims in the direction of Chalons, but had suc 
ceeded in crossing the Marne south-west of Rheims towards Epernay 
and then, right on the heels of this news came the sudden crushing 
counter-blow of Gen. Foch to electrically charge the air with a brist 
ling offensive spirit and new hope instead of the passive, even if 
determined attitude that had at best these last few months meant 
"sticking it out" until more American help came. 

Between Chateau Thierry and Soissons had come the first great 
counter-stroke on the western side of the long salient the Germans 
had driven toward Rheims and Paris and then, starting on July 
20th had come a four-mile push in six days against the eastern side 
of the salient days which dramatically changed the whole fortunes 
of war and had a significance far beyond what the map could show. 
Some of that significance was more apparent when on July 26th came 
news that 35 German divisions within the dangerously-narrowed 
salient, to save themselves from complete envelopment, if not annihila 
tion, began a general but orderly retreat. Once more the Marne had 
interposed. 

But with all his troubles in the south, the enemy had reserves 
enough to move three fresh divisions in to face Vimy, where almost 
incessant activity of the Canadians in the line puzzled the Germans 
into expecting an attack. But for all this activity there was time for 
Canadians to reflect that if war could be lovely at all then it must be 
at its peak of loveliness in July in France, over which hung a lazy 
summer haze. A green carpet of grass and foliage covered the most 
recent scars of war on Vimy and patches of it relieved the brick- 
colored landscape that stretched over the plain away on to Douai. By 



140 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

day activity quietened down to drowsiness but at night moonlight 
reveries might be rudely shattered by sudden, spiteful barrages or 
the whine and crash of searching, random shells. 

As July 30th approached there was no instinctive premonition 
that big things were impending. However, on that day Canadian 
Headquarters mysteriously pushed off into the blue. And though the 
1st and 4th Divisions then in the line did not know it, the other 
Divisions were already on their way somewhere. 

On the nights of July 31st and August lst-2nd the Divisions in 
the line were relieved by the British 56th, 57th and 52nd Divisions, 
the latter of which had been initiated previously into their first sight 
of trench duty on the Western Front, as they came to France from 
Mesop. 

And the 1st and 4th Divisions kept moving but where? 

The imaginative optimists knew now definitely that that job of 
garrisoning Paris would be a certainty beyond every crossroad halt. 
The realists knew just as definitely that those months of training 
behind the lines certainly justified no visions of pleasant strolls along 
Paris boulevards that through the summer pleasantness ahead there 
were much grimmer things to come. 

To many now, years after, it is a stretch of pleasant, confused 
memories wherein days merged into days and slumbers were caught 
in strange places. Those sudden embussings, those train rides that 
were more like merry-go-rounds because of no known destination; 
those long treks in summer moonlit nights through a totally different 
France of winding roads over well-forested countryside; those days 
of sleep in sleepy little villages that were a warming contrast to the 
starkness of those farther north all these things are memorable. 

But they were mystifying then, for France had seemingly 
swallowed the Canadian Corps, whole. 

How the Canadian Corps was first committed to "a venture" in 
the South as early as July 20th; how elaborate plans were concocted 
to keep the Corps itself in ignorance of the intention ; the deliberate 
fostering of the idea of a push in the North ; the sending of the two 
battalions, the 7th (Winnipeg) and the 4th C. M. R., "secretly" north 
ward, where they did a trench tour and had the "humiliating" 
misfortune to lose prisoners and carelessly leave evidence of other 
Canadian units being in that sector for the Germans to interpret, were 
all factors in a magnificently-conceived bit of camouflage that set a 
new level for the war to date. 

To students of the art of war and of psychology the suddenly- 
found elasticity of staff work and conception which could turn from 
setpiece attacks, from an oftentimes bewildered defence and from a 



BATTLE OF AMIENS 141 

deep-rooted conviction that months of preparation must precede every 
attack to fluid developments now taking form every hour, must always 
prove intriguing. 

The Canadian Corps mission was at first to be a purely local 
attack to free the Amiens-Paris railway line, but the Allied counter- 
offensive started on July 18th had had such an effect on the general 
situation that now the operations of the Corps were to have a much 
wider scope. 

And so it was that the Canadian Corps infantry and machine 
gunners found themselves, almost magically, assembling on the night 
of August 7th in areas in front of Amiens city. The Canadian artillery 
was already in position. In Hangard Wood were secreted 130 tanks 
and on the night of the 7th more came up, the noise of their coming 
drowned out by the drone of scores of heavy British bombers. In 
every bit of available cover, troops and guns and vehicles were hidden 
while the tremendous task of getting adequate supplies of ammunition 
for the huge job at hand was, somehow, miraculously being accom 
plished. 

The general front of attack was to extend from Moreuil to Ville- 
sur-Ancre, approximately 20,000 yards. On the right was the 1st 
French Army (Moreuil to Thennes) ; in the centre from Thennes to 
the Amiens-Chaulnes railway line was the Canadian Corps; on the 
left was the Australian Corps (Amiens-Chaulnes railway line to the 
Somme) and over again to the extreme left was the 3rd British Corps 
attacking in the direction of Morlancourt. 

The total width of the Canadian Corps front was 8,500 yards 
and three objectives set for the first day were the Green Line, Red 
Line and Blue Dotted Line. The last objective visualized a penetra 
tion of 14,000 yards a trifle over eight miles. 

"The general scheme of attack," said Gen. Sir Arthur Currie in 
his official account of the battle, "was to overrun rapidly the enemy s 
forward area to a depth of 3,500 yards under cover of a dense artillery 
barrage which would begin at zero hour; then, without halting, to 
seize the Red Line, relying on the help of the tanks to overcome the 
machine gun defences. At that moment the Cavalry was to pass 
through the Infantry and seize the area as far back as the Blue 
Dotted Line (running east of Hangest-en-Santerre-les Quesnel-Caix- 
Harbonnieres) supported on its right flank by the Canadian Independ 
ent Force, which consisted of two Motor Machine Gun Brigades, two 
sections of heavy trench mortars which could be fired from trucks 
and the Canadian Corps Cyclists, all under the direction of Brig.-Gen. 
Brutinel, C.M.G., D.S.O., commanding the Canadian Machine Gun 
Corps. The Cavalry was to be followed as quickly by the 4th Cana- 



142 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

dian Division passing through the 3rd on the right and by reserve 
brigades of the other two Divisions. Every effort was to be made 
to exploit success wherever it occurred." 

It was a sweeping, bold conception, utterly the opposite of what 
had gone before in set-piece attacks and to machine gunners, newly 
formed into their expanded battalions and with the battery as the 
tactical unit, it was to provide an especially novel test in particular 
for the new "Hell-for-Leather" school which had arisen in the machine 
gun ranks and pictured, as a result of the earlier summer training, a 
sort of Light Horse Artillery role for itself. But oddest and most 
novel role of all machine gunners was to fall to No. 3 Company (Capt. 
W. G. Williams) of the 4th Battalion which with two added guns from 
No. 2 Company were to go over in 34 old Mark IV tanks. The boldly- 
conceived role of these slow, but improved, juggernauts was to pro 
ceed straight to the Blue Dotted Line, eight miles away, and there 
disgorge their crews of Vickers and Lewis gunners to harass retreat 
ing Germans and hold the Blue Dotted Line until our infantry came 
up. 

The relief of the Australians still holding the outpost line on the 
night of August 7th-8th came off without a hitch, and every last 
detail of the vast, complicated preparations were tightly, magically 
dovetailed in the August night, the stars being fortunately hidden 
by scudding clouds. The greater part of our forward area consisted 
of bare slopes exposed to enemy observation from the high ground 
to the south of the River Luce and east of Hourges but in which 
trenches were only loosely connected and of temporary construction. 
On the right there was one bridge on the Domart-Hangard road over 
which all traffic had to be pushed to get to the jumping-off trenches. 
That bridge was a high gamble. 

And so, with only the odd flare lighting up the sky, this powerful 
Canadian striking force gathered up its might. An hour before the 
4.20 zero hour a heavy mist rolled up from the marshy ground along 
the Luce and was to be some compensation for the obstacle this ground 
presented to the attack. 

There was to be no co-ordinated machine gun barrage for the 
whole frontage of attack. Divisions were to arrange their own. Two 
batteries 2nd Battalion and the No. 3 Company of the 3rd were thus 
detailed and were to do a particularly effective job. 

And now as we near the zero hour it must be confessed that any 
historian, even if only trying to keep within the limits of the Machine 
Gun units in this big adventure about to start, would have to have a 
complete volume at his disposal. There were 48 machine gun batteries 
to be set in motion at varying times in this sweeping plan of attack, 



BATTLE OF AMIENS 143 

to say nothing of keeping a wary, alert eye on the Independent Force 
operating on the Amiens-Roye road in an avenging role, for this 
countryside was of recent, bitter memory for the Motors. Every 
battery will run the full gamut of adventures. 

And so, in fancy, we ll take a view from a two-seater plane, which 
will share the air with many squadrons which as the light grows 
better will zoom down in wild dives, machine-gunning surprised and 
confused German groups. And we ll concentrate on getting glimpses, 
if only fleeting ones, of the Machine Gunners part in this battle. 

On the dot at 4.20, the mightiest chorus of artillery fire that ever 
crashed the accompaniment to a Canadian attack opened up in all its 
fury, the false misty dawn being stabbed with a continuous, serried 
flash of flame. The surprise was so complete that no answering roar 
came from the enemy artillery for, it seemed, whole minutes and then 
it was only fitful and finally, as the accuracy of the Canadian counter- 
battery work made itself felt and the infantry advance surged over 
their areas, died away into broken salvos. 

Mist had aided the Germans when they opened their thrust for 
Amiens in March and now Fate was tossing this same mist against 
them. But if it added to the confusion of the Germans, it also pre 
vented the covering Machine Gun batteries from affording support 
to infantry units with which they were moving forward. 

White, red and green flares are still going up from the German 
lines as the 3rd Division storms up the slopes of Hourges with No. 3 
Company concentrating an intense barrage fire on Dodo Woods. One 
other rank is killed and six wounded in the barrage positions. Files 
of pack mules easily distinguish the machine gunners moving up 
behind their infantry brigades or in the leading battalions. One 
battery comes into action 1,500 yards north of Demuin, and again at 
Wren Copse. 

All along the Corps front of attack progress is being made and 
whole groups of Germans are left to themselves as attacks swirl past. 
Rapid progress is being made by the 1st Division in the centre, a 
momentary setback being experienced at the road junction 500 yards 
north of Demuin. With few casualties, batteries move along in dia 
mond formation and occupied the Green Line to consolidate. There 
is stiff resistance to overcome in Hangard Wood West but the attack 
opens and eddies around the flanks as it does in Hangard Wood East. 
At the latter place M. G. sections overcome groups which had been 
overlooked by the fast-moving infantry and "M" Battery of the 1st 
C. M. G. C. Battalion comes into action 300 yards west of the Demuin- 
Villers-Brettoneaux road and uses overhead fire to support the 13th 
and 14th Battalions, who are driving at Croates Trench near the crest 



144 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

of the spur southeast of Morgemont Wood. "L" Battery, operating 
with the 14th Battalion, can be seen attacking a strong point, one 
section firing on it and the other half battery creeping up on the flank 
and using bombs to capture five guns and kill all the crews. The 
battery is to repeat this performance another 100 yards farther on 
before occupying and consolidating positions in the first objective, 
the Green Line. 

And roaring on over to the left sector we see the 2nd Division 
carrying the Green Line with dash even though, an hour before zero, 
its assembly area had been the target of a sudden, heavy German 
barrage which inflicted many casualties. The same barrage had given 
the Corps a bad moment as they feared the show had been given away 
by some Australians captured on the night of August 6th. 

No. 3 Company (McCamus) of the 2nd C. M. G. Battalion didn t 
run into much trouble as it went up with the 4th Infantry Brigade, 
until it came under fire from German guns in Morgemont Wood from 
the right. Then later they can be seen giving covering fire to the 
18th Battalion as it captures Cancellette Ravine by assault. Two 
signallers of "J" Battery are wounded as the Battery personnel cap 
tures two German guns, one officer and 10 men and the captured guns 
are immediately turned on a strong point to a flank. The Company s 
batteries are in position in the Green Line in plenty of time to secure 
good targets as pockets of Germans break out of dips in the ground 
and attempt to escape. Jaffa Trench held up the 19th Battalion on 
the left. "M" Battery had already lost an officer (Roughton) before 
the jump-off but got nicely out of the enemy barrage, capturing 
several German guns and crews as it followed the Amiens-Nesle rail 
way. Corp. Duffy, observing one gun holding up the infantry, rushed 
it from the rear and killed its two-man crew. The battery 0. C. 
(McCullough) with three gunners rushed three German machine guns 
successively, the officer being twice wounded. Two other ranks are 
killed, two officers and 11 other ranks wounded before this battery 
is seen settling in its Green Line positions, from where they further 
harried retreating Germans. "K" and "L" Batteries, detailed for 
barrage duty, had three killed and one wounded before zero hour and, 
being mistaken for enemy gunners in the mist, were fired upon by 
our own infantry. 

Now back to the right again just as the morning sun is dissipat 
ing the mist and we see the Canadian Cavalry Brigade moving out 
on the plateau an inspiring sight and along the tree-lined Amiens- 
Roye road are moving the Motors, protecting the flank left open by 
the rapid advance of the 3rd Division and the planned 45-minute delay 
in the start of the French 1st Army s attack. Now as the mist clears 



BATTLE OF AMIENS 145 

the greatest panorama of modern battle from the Allied side of the 
Western Front is spreading out before our eyes. Tanks, lumbering 
Mark IV s and the fleet little Whippets, Cavalry sabres flashing in 
the sun and Artillery limbering up and galloping to new positions a 
whole Corps in movement extending back to the 4th Canadian Division 
in reserve make up a sight that beggars description. Long, broken 
lines of brown dots are the infantry uncoiling like a long snake across 
the Canadian front as groups stop here and there to take time off 
from fighting to frisk files of German prisoners going the opposite 
way and out of the war. 

Now it is the Red Line just east of Mezieres White House- 
Camp Vermont Farm and the high ground east of Guillacourt for 
which the supporting brigades of all three Divisions will make. At 
8.20 our protective barrage in front of the Green Line had ceased and 
the enemy artillery fire is down to random shots. His defence is 
broken up now into strong points and isolated groups which are to 
provide stubborn opposition as the morning wears on. 

Near Demuin two tanks filled with machine gunners go straight 
for a German 5.9 Battery, which fires at them over open sights. They 
halt in a hollow and off load the gunners, who stalk up the hill and 
wipe out the battery. Pack mules are taking "A," "B," "E" and "F" 
Batteries of the 3rd C. M. G. C. Battalion up with the infantry. "B" 
Battery had to man-handle its guns across the Luce at Hangard on a 
foot bridge while the mules were swum across. The delay had brought 
German shelling down on this area, but the battery escaped with two 
other ranks casualties and losing two mules. Two more other ranks 
were wounded and a mule killed as the battery came under German 
machine gun fire while crossing the valley south of Demuin. 

The 1st Division is now moving on to Corcelles and Lette Wood 
and by 11.30 a.m. are taking the Red Line objective, including the 
villages of Ignacourt and Cayeux. The speed of advance is so great 
that "A" and "D" Batteries, in diamond formation behind the 3rd 
C. I. B., had no opportunity of assisting in fire fights before consoli 
dating at the Red Line. 

No. 1 Company (Basevi) of the 2nd C. M. G. C. Battalion co 
operated with the 5th C. I. B. on the left and used full limbers moving 
up to the Red Line objectives. "D" Battery lost an officer and three 
other ranks near Wiencourt. 

The entire Red Line is in our hands by noon and the Blue Dotted 
Line attackers begin moving on through the Red Line positions. The 
4th Division now came into the picture, leap-frogging the tired but 
exultant 3rd Division. The French advance is now beginning to keep 
pace and along the whole front the horizon blue of the French on the 



146 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

/ 

right and the Canadians and Australians move along at a pace to 
make history. 

The 4th Division had two-thirds of the Blue Dotted Line objec 
tives to take with a corresponding decrease of the 1st and 2nd Division 
fronts. Recovered from their first surprise and confusion, German 
troops during the afternoon, fighting in the beaming August sunshine, 
are to offer increasingly stiff resistance all along the line, with rein 
forcements beginning to make their appearance. 

Now cavalry and tanks are really entering the fight and going 
on to new adventures as they preceded the infantry at this stage of 
the battle. 

Suddenly topping a rise, No. 1 Company (Britton) of the 4th 
C. M. G. C., even though it is in Divisional reserve, is to suddenly 
have a grandstand view of the struggle for Beaucourt Wood. Cavalry 
squadrons are attacking the wood and being mowed down by machine 
gun fire. They are broken under a hail of fire, wheel and re-form 
again and again. An 18-pounder battery has galloped into the fight 
and blazes away at the wood over open sights and out in the open 
themselves. Finally cavalry coming up from the right flank are seen 
to go into the wood and there they were found, dismounted and held 
up by the Germans, who fought from behind every tree as the infantry 
penetrated the leafy nest of strong points. The 54th and 102nd Bat 
talions cleared the wood after a stiff fight and by 4.30 p.m. are 
established on the eastern edge, seeking to hook up with the 12th 
C. I. B. The llth C. I. B. suffered severely from machine gun fire 
from Fresnoy-en-Chaussee over on the French front and were unable 
to make any headway over the flat ground toward Les Quesnel. "F" 
Battery was split up, with mobile guns being attached to the llth 
C. I. B. The 12th C. I. B. encountered less resistance and with their 
accompanying M. G. batteries rapidly reached the final objective on 
the line Caix-les Quesnel road. The 78th had the most stubborn 
opposition and it required an infantry company, several tanks, an 
18-pounder and a Stokes gun crew to subdue enemy strong points on 
the high level north of Beaucourt Wood. 

It is difficult following the varying fortunes of the tanks, many 
of which were mired in the Luce at the start. The 3rd Canadian 
Division had requisitioned four of the tanks. 

On the right, the tanks co-operating with the llth C. I. B. went 
well until reaching Beaucourt Wood, where, debouching from low 
ground between Beaucourt and Beaucourt Wood, the fire from an 
enemy battery sited west of Les Quesnel knocked out all but one of 
the moving forts. The survivor aided the 54th Battalion attack on 
Beaucourt Wood by moving along in front of the wood, firing into it 



BATTLE OF AMIENS 147 

and then returning to the dead ground. Another tank (Gardner) got 
forward to the vicinity of Les Quesnel, where its crew was deposited. 
The tank was immediately surrounded and survivors of the crew and 
gun crews were taken prisoner. Hostile artillery and machine gun 
fire set the tanks afire and their crews and Vickers gun crews were 
either burned to death or shot in trying to escape. Major L. F. 
Pearce, acting as Liaison Officer, found five crews from destroyed 
tanks and these remnants, under Eaton and Henderson, were placed 
in positions on the edge of Beaucourt Wood. 

Of the 12 tanks preceding the 1st Division advance, six reached 
the Blue Dotted Line but, owing to the right being held up, these were 
obliged to withdraw their detachments 1,500 yards. Not all the 
Vickers guns got forward with these tanks. Some had been unable 
to stand the heat and the fumes and were unloaded with their guns 
and followed the nearest infantry. On the way up four of these gun 
crews succeeded in clearing up machine gun nests for the advance 
of the 78th. One tank on this sector (McDonald) reached the Blue 
Line before the infantry on the right of the 12th C. I. B. frontage 
and surviving members of the crew got their guns into action and 
held the position until troops of the 72nd Battalion hove into view. 

Decades after this August day it is essential that the historian 
forsake the aerial, sweeping view of widely-spread action for a more 
intimate, detailed story of what happened to these tanks on their 
novel adventure an adventure destined to be a fore-runner of 
mechanized tactics in open warfare. 

Describing the action of the tank which first reached the Blue 
Line and stuck it out there, Lieut. F. M. MacDonald reported: 

"Our crews continued to go forward with the tank and about 
two hours afterwards we passed through the 58th Battalion after 
they had captured the second objective. From here we pushed for 
ward to the Dotted Blue Line with the cavalry and ahead of the 
infantry on the frontage of the 12th Brigade. Continued machine 
gun fire and bursts of shell fire were encountered during the remainder 
of the advance. For this reason we had to travel inside the tanks 
almost all the way. Several of the men became weak and sickened by 
the fumes inside the tank. By using anti-gas tablets and also a solu 
tion which we had for the purpose, most of them recovered. Two, 
however, had to be left behind to be evacuated. The cavalry were 
moving with us, or ahead of us, but on many occasions they met with 
hostile machine gun fire and sustained heavy losses. 

"We also met with fire from anti-tank rifles and a few bullets 
from these penetrated our tank. Slight casualties were also caused 
from splinters from the inside of the tank. By continued concentrated 



148 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

fire on the revolver loop holes in the tank, the enemy succeeded in 
breaking the loop-hole frames and causing casualties. My tank 
officer was fatally wounded in the head. His N. C. O. was killed and 
two of the tank men were later mortally wounded. One of the Lewis 
gun men and the scout were killed. After a direct hit on our tank it 
stalled a couple of times and on one of these occasions, about 2 p.m., 
when we were just to the right of the woods in 21. d, 1,000 yards in 
the rear of the Blue Line and 500 yards north of the 12th C. I. B. right 
boundary, the enemy began to rush us from the woods near by. 
Machine gun and rifle bullets were rapping on our tanks from all 
sides and our only hope was to keep all our guns firing and get the 
tank started if possible. After a great deal of difficulty in cranking 
the engine, we succeeded in starting the tank again and with our 
machine guns we wiped out groups of the retreating enemy. We 
pushed forward about 1,000 yards farther on until we reached our 
final objective, where we unloaded our guns and took up positions on 
some unlevel ground. Our tank was hit and destroyed by a shell 
before we got all our ammunition and rations out of it. We remained 
there and held our position against enemy fire until the 72nd Battalion 
reached us about 6.30 p.m. 

Capt. W. G. Williams, acting 0. C. No. 3 Company, which pro 
vided 32 crews of the tank personnel, accompanied "B" Tank Com 
pany s 11 tanks into action and his report reads: 

"I accompanied B Company with the remaining 7 tanks (4 had 
been detailed to the 3rd Division at Hourges) which eventually went 
forward to Cayeux Wood, where we were informed by the Cavalry 
that they were suffering heavy casualties from machine guns in a 
small wood at E.12-b. We therefore proceeded to the wood and 
engaged the enemy. Our casualties in this encounter were heavy, 
caused from splinters from the inside of the tanks. 

"Shortly after this my tank developed engine trouble so I 
returned and reported to the G. O. C. 12th C. I. B., who requested one 
tank to remain on the western side of Caix Wood. I also, at his 
request, placed two Vickers and two Lewis guns on the same side 
at approximately E.7c.60.15 and D.12.d.3.4." 

Describing the start with other tanks from in front of Gentelles 
Wood, the difficulty of getting over the Luce and slow progress up to 
Domart, Lieut. McGillivray s account of his tank s action is as follows : 

"After passing through the 3rd Division we came into our first 
real action. Our troops were held up by machine gun fire from a 
wood. We at once proceeded there and went into action. The fire 
here was heavy and it was aimed mainly against the doors and turrets 
of the tank. This engagement lasted 20 minutes to half and hour. 



BATTLE OF AMIENS 149 

We succeeded in knocking out several of the German guns but in so 
doing both our six-pounders and four of our Hotchkiss guns were put 
out of action. In the case of the six-pounders, the telescopic sights 
were blown off; the Hotchkiss guns had the gas chambers riddled 
with bullets. We had done a good deal of turning and maneuvring 
in a small area and, owing to the tank being new, the huge treads 
began to loosen and pound very badly. The Tank Officer thought it 
best to withdraw to dead ground and try to effect repairs. The repairs 
were effected and we were about to go into action again when I re 
ceived orders to hold Caix Wood." 

Those are the recorded reports but other Companies of the 4th 
C. M. G. C. Battalion who had before the attack plaintively asked why 
No. 3 Company instead of No. 1 or 2 had been favored with a nice 
ride into battle were thankful that no such choice had fallen on them, 
as they knew the unrecorded story of this novelty added to war. 

Of the 34 Vickers guns and crews which went forward in the 
tanks, four actually reached the Blue Dotted Line and came into 
action against the Germans in accordance with the daring plan for 
the operation. Eight tanks were set on fire and entirely destroyed; 
two crews were entirely missing and 16 crews were unloaded from 
tanks overcome by the unaccustomed heat and gas and cramped 
conditions inside the tanks. Thirteen machine guns were destroyed 
or lost. 

The following officers of the 4th Battalion C. M. G. C. were in 
charge of Vickers crews and in tactical handling of the tanks: 

Lieuts. O. B. Eaton, Gardner, Hamilton, Lorimer, MacDonald, 
McGillvray, Patterson and Riddell. Of these Lieut. Lorimer and 
Lieut. Hamilton were killed and Lieut. Gardner made a prisoner. 

Official analysis attributed the general failure to the fact that 
tanks were diverted to too many other tasks, became separated and 
were taken on individually by anti-tank crews, which, owing to these 
delays, had had time to come up. The original plan of going straight 
for the Blue Line had been lost, but allowances were thereby made 
for the hurried way in which the plan was launched. 

And now as the dusk of evening approached, Canadians exulted 
as they never had cause to exult before in a sweeping victory that 
had brought a penetration of over eight miles into the enemy s 
defences. Before they had known the limits almost of human endur 
ance of set-piece warfare with its concentrated fury of shell-fire and 
filth and oftentimes mud. At this moment they realized a new limit 
to the physical demands of a fighting advance of such depth. They 
were exultant but tired and weary. 

Off to the right, the square church tower of Le Quesnel stood 



150 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

out squarely in a leafy tracery against the darkening horizon and, 
temporarily at least, was the one monument of successful resistance 
of the Germans that day. 

As units shifted into defence positions for the night, a strange 
after-battle quiet brooded over the whole area. In other centuries 
bivouack fires would have studded the darkness. Here all was eerily 
silent. 

The llth C.I.B., which had been unable to take Les Quesnel dur 
ing the day, now prepared for an early morning assault. 

The Independent Force which had had an exciting day, operating 
up the Amiens-Roye road and in helping the French capture Mezieres, 
performed a spectacular piece of work. When a battery had worked 
out a plan to co-operate with the French trying vainly to debouch 
from Mezieres in the face of heavy machine gun fire, it was unneces 
sary as "C Battery (French) of No. 1 group on its own initiative 
swept around the village, outflanked the German machine gunners 
and infantry and forced their withdrawal under withering fire. 

The Corps as it faced the night could look back at a wonderful 
summary of the day s work. It was a bag of 6,000 prisoners in a maxi 
mum penetration of over eight miles; the capture of over 100 large 
guns, thousands of machine guns and the possession of immense 
stores of engineer supplies, and reserve ammunition parks. Sixteen 
German divisions had been tabbed that day, eight of which had been 
thrown in against the Canadians drive. 

Chronologically and actually, the capture of Les Quesnel must be 
credited to August 9th. The llth C. I. B. in the early morning hours, 
accompanied by cavalry, tanks and the trench mortars mounted on 
trucks which were attached to the Independent Force, made the 
assault. The trench mortars were of great assistance in this aus 
picious start to a day that was to contain almost as much adventure 
but much harder fighting, in spots, than on the glorious 8th. 

The general advance was not started until between 11 a.m. and 
2 p.m., units starting at varying times. 

The 3rd Canadian Division had passed through the 4th on the 
right, the 1st was in the centre and the 2nd was on the left, all within 
the same boundaries of the day before. The 3rd was using the 8th 
Brigade, the 1st and 2nd attacked on two-brigade fronts. The objec 
tive was the line of the road Bouchoir through Rouvroy and Mehari- 
court and Lihons. Vreley, Rosieres and Meharicourt were villages in 
the 2nd Division objectives ; Beaufort, Warvillers and Rouvroy in the 
Ist s and Folies and Bouchoir in the 3rd s. 

There was to be no artillery barrage. 

The 3rd Division swept through the 4th at the Blue Dotted Line 



BATTLE OF AMIENS 



151 




152 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

and out to the attack. Stiffest resistance the Division met was for 
possession of the Beet Root Factory near the crossroads 1,000 yards 
northwest of Bouchoir. This was eventually taken at 6 p.m., by which 
time the entire objective was in our hands. The 5th C. M. R. gave 
the French assistance in the capture of Arvillers as they kept pace 
with the advance. In the move forward No. 3 Company of the 3rd 
C. M. G. C. Battalion sent three Batteries up with the 8th C. I. B., but 
used them to consolidate. It was not until Bouchoir was captured 
that they were rushed into positions, suffering five casualties in the 
move. Special attention was paid to the right flank, where we were 
slightly in advance of the French. 

The 1st Division advance did not commence until 1.15 p.m. and 
ran into stubborn fighting. The 2nd Battalion on emerging from 
Beaufort engaged a German force forming up for an attack and 
scattered it. Two tanks, a detachment of llth Hussars helped this 
unit clear one end of Rouvroy, but it was 9.20 p.m. before the 3rd and 
4th Battalions captured the whole of the village and all the Division 
objectives were in its hands. "B" and "D" Batteries of No. 1 Com 
pany (Morris), 1st C. M. G. C. Battalion, kept in close touch with the 
attacking battalions, with guns in pairs in diamond formation. "B" 
Battery found parties of the enemy along a light railway 1,000 yards 
east of the jumping-off line an inviting target, and from the vicinity 
of the Warvillers-Folies road fire was brought to bear on enemy 
artillery, observed withdrawing south of Rouvroy, causing casualties 
to men and horses and much confusion. "D" Battery fired a barrage 
of three lifts, hastily worked out by Lieut. Dillon, as infantry and 
cavalry were held up at Beaufort Woods. Quick action was obtained 
by emptying the gun limbers at Les Quesnel. A four-man crew with 
gun and eight loaded belts was placed in each half limber. The Bat 
tery was then galloped into action under cover of a sunken road. Three 
belts were fired from each gun; the whole action taking place in 
twenty-eight minutes. 

No. 2 Company (Denholm) saw some of the most bitter fighting 
of the day by the 8th and 5th Battalions, the O. C. of the former, 
Major Haddall, D.S.O., former commander of the 2nd C. M. G. Com 
pany, being killed as he led an assault on Hatchett Wood. Determined 
enemy groups, centred around machine gun nests, offered a stubborn 
front. "E" Battery scattered a party of 50 Germans emerging from 
the northern end of Beaufort Wood and a group of retreating Germans 
were splashed with 500 rounds 500 yards west of Warvillers as they 
retreated. Enemy artillery wagons moving along the Rouvroy- Vreley 
road next came into the view and two guns got away several belts at 
them, hurrying their retreat and knocking out two teams. 



BATTLE OF AMIENS 153 

Pte. McLeod of No. 2 Section, firing No. 6 gun, was given credit 
for bringing down an enemy plane in flames just east of the Rouvroy- 
Vreley road as a gun was mounted in an anti-aircraft role to end an 
exciting day, at one point of which Lieut. Mclntosh took charge of 
elements of the 8th Battalion, who had lost all their officers. 

Nos. 1 and 2 Companies of the 2nd C. M. G. C. Battalion supported 
the 2nd Canadian Division attack, flanked by the Australian advance. 
No. 1 Company (Basevi) started out with limbers, but the fighting 
was of such a dogged nature and so much of it hidden as infiltrating 
methods were used by both brigades that the Batteries were held to 
a consolidating role. Major Basevi was the senior officer left at 5th 
Brigade headquarters when a shell killed the brigade Major and 
wounded the G. 0. C. and Staff Capt. Intelligence. The Company only 
suffered two other ranks wounded. 

No. 2 Company (McCorkell) attacked with the 6th C. I. B., the 
left of which was badly exposed for a time until the Australians came 
up. When the advance was held up at Rosieres, "F" Battery and four 
guns of "H" were placed to cover the gap and when the Germans 
retired before the Australians, the latter guns, enfilading a sunken 
road, caught them under a terrific fire. The flanking fire of these guns 
gave the Aussies great assistance. The Company, however, suffered 
comparatively heavy casualties with four gunners killed and 20 
wounded. No. 3 Company (McCamus), which had borne the brunt 
of the previous day s fighting, was in reserve. 

Away over to the right the Independent Force had again had an 
adventurous day as they kept in touch with the now rapidly-advancing 
French. One armoured car was hit near Bouchoir in the afternoon 
and other car crews had sustained casualties before they were with 
drawn. The Trench Mortar section operating with No. 2 Group was 
brought into action against a whizz-bang battery behind the railway 
embankment and after 25 rounds had them silenced. "A" Battery, 
with the Cavalry, pushed on through Folies and from positions east 
of the village inflicted heavy casualties on the retiring enemy. "B" 
and "C" Batteries were in Arvullers ahead of the French, capturing 
a large number of prisoners. Pte. H. McCorkell displayed great cour 
age by rushing the village and capturing 15 Germans single-handed. 
"D" and "E" Batteries, supported by a platoon of Cyclists, worked 
their way southeast of Folies and with the infantry entered Bouchoir 
in the evening. 

The average depth of the advance had been four miles with a 
maximum of 6^ miles at some points. Although the enemy s resist 
ance had stiffened and there was much more shelling, there was no 
halting the forward dash of the Canadians, which had now carried 



154 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

them into the old trench system occupied prior to the Somme oper 
ations of 1916. This area had been the right flank of the British line 
and the trenches, while in disrepair, lent themselves to a still more 
stubborn defence. 

The night of the 9th-10th brought successive bombing raids and 
very little sleep for those who just ended a hard day s fighting and 
for the 4th and 3rd Divisions, who were to carry on the attack the 
next day. 

The general objective of the attack on the 10th was the line of 
Hattencourt-Hallu to the left Corps boundary. The Australians 
attacked on the left to capture Lihons. 

The 3rd Division attacked with the 8th C. I. B., which had been 
in the front line the previous day. When the attacking battalions, 
the 2nd C. M. R. and the 1st C. M. R., had won LeQuesnoy, the 32nd 
Division (British) passed through at 9.45 a.m. and continued the 
attack. The machine gunners of the 3rd Division maintained their 
positions. 

At 10.15 a.m. the 4th Division assaulting troops, the 12th and 
10th Brigades, passed through the 2nd Canadian Division. "D" Bat 
tery of the 4th C. M. G. C. Battalion supported the 10th C. I. B. "A" 
and "C" Batteries supported the 12th C. I. B. "A" and "D" Batteries 
were in a defensive role. "B" Battery (Rainboth) moved forward 
with guns on pack animals and came under severe machine gun fire 
from positions north of the railway soon after jumping off. At 1.45 
p.m. four guns of this battery came into action 500 yards west of 
the Chilly-Lihons road against enemy machine guns and later engaged 
parties of the enemy south and east of Lihons. "A" Battery started 
out in full limbers and switched to half limbers when the mules could 
not get the limbers across the railway just east of Rosieres and heavy 
shelling made haste necessary. The Battery came under heavy shell 
ing going up in diamond formation, but escaped casualties and finally, 
when the trench system was reached, deftly changed to pack mules. 
The advance, however, came to an abrupt halt near Fouquescourt and 
Chilly. Although crowded into a shallow communication trench, 
which had fallen in, with a company of 72nd Highlanders, the machine 
gunners and the infantry and the mules escaped casualties as four 
German planes machine gunned them and finally dropped hand bombs. 

During the night of the lOth-llth a strong enemy counter-attack 
was beaten off east of Hallu, but because of the pronounced salient, 
the line was pulled into Hallu and then to the eastern outskirts of 
Chilly. 



BATTLE OF AMIENS 155 

From August 10th until the Canadian Corps left the Amiens 
front, no combined attack was made to break down German resistance. 
Local attacks, in which epic battles on a small scale were fought, 
advanced the line from trench to trench. Settling back into trench 
warfare, the machine gunners in minor attacks were able to con 
tribute some valuable overhead supporting fire, especially in the four 
days, August 12th-16th, in which the 3rd Division captured a strong 
trench system 400 yards in length and 2,000 yards wide and enabled 
the French to enter Bois-en-Z from the rear and so pass through the 
German main resistance line on the way to Roye, 21/2 miles distant. 

Amiens will be forever memorable to Canadians for its panor 
amic view of a modern battle in the open. New successes, just as 
important to the general Allied scheme of Gen. Foch, were to come 
to the Canadians, but none were to offer the variety of experiences 
or such a sense of freedom from the cramping confines of battles as 
they had known them as Amiens. 

The new Battalion organization had proven its merit and so had 
the Battery as a tactical unit. 

But the experience had shown that the Machine Gun Battalion 
was hardly ready for any "Hell-for-Leather" role as many had pic 
tured it from their daily open warfare tactics while at rest behind 
Vimy during the earlier summer, nor yet was it the immobile, heavily- 
laden, plodding arm it had been when paced to slower infantry 
advances of set-piece attacks. It had struck a fair balance between 
the two schools. 

Conclusions regarding tactics, the handling of transport to insure 
the greatest mobility commensurate with concealment and effective 
ness and the other new problems suddenly thrust upon the Vickers in 
open warfare, it will seem years after, were exceptionally sound, as 
they were voiced by the four Commanders of Canadian Machine Gun 
Corps Battalions following Amiens. Not all agree at certain points 
but in composite they cover all the ground. 

After insisting that batteries, whether in reserve or advancing, 
must use limbers or pack animals and must not be divided into sec 
tions while there is a probability of a continued advance, Lieut.-Col. 
M. A. Scott, D.S.O., of the 4th Battalion C.M.G.C., observed, regard 
ing general co-operation in the attack, as follows: 

"To properly support the infantry advance, batteries need not 
follow closer than 1,000 yards in rear of the first wave. Their moves 



156 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

should be by bounds and detailed by the Battery Commander, who 
will advance with the infantry. When the infantry are held up by 
a point of resistance, they do not require machine gun support if the 
resistance can be overcome in a short time. From half an hour to an 
hour is required to determine the situation, by which time batteries 
can easily come into action at any suitable spot in order to develop 
superiority of fire." 

"Great difficulty was experienced by some batteries who tried 
to keep pace on foot with the rapidly advancing infantry, preventing 
participation in fire-fights unless hold-ups were of lengthy duration," 
recorded Lieut. S. G. Watson, D.S.O., commanding the 1st Battalion 
C. M. G. C. 

"Battery Commanders cannot fight their batteries and personally 
be Liaison officers to infantry battalions in rapid open warfare," con 
tinues Lieut.-Col. Watson, making a point that will probably be gener 
ally conceded. "A battery must be allotted a certain area to 
advance over, cover the consolidation of their objective and eventu 
ally defend the area in depth. Also battery commanders should be 
allowed to use their own initiative in giving supporting fire on targets 
coming within range, irrespective of the particular unit which they 
are following. This method was successfully tried out and proved 
entirely satisfactory. It was demonstrated during the advance on 
Beaufort that batteries well under control can fire a supporting 
barrage at short notice." 

"As many batteries as possible should remain in Divisional Re 
serve under orders of the Battalion Commander," noted Lieut.-Col. 
Scott of the 4th C. M. G. C. "These can then be dispatched on short 
notice to any part of the Divisional front, either to assist in over 
coming strong points or leap-frogging forward batteries or to take 
up defensive positions." 

Lieut.-Col. Gordon Weir, D.S.O., M.C., commanding the 2nd Bat 
talion, observed that the use of limbers in semi-open warfare which 
followed the initial attack proved very satisfactory in the Amiens 
area, where there were not many trenches to cross and no wire. 

"Pack animals," he however concluded, "were much more suit 
able than limbers (a) over rough ground with obstacles, (b) if roads 
and limber tracks are scarce, (c) if on account of hostile fire it is 
necessary to choose covered approaches and keep away from roads." 

Lieut.-Col. Moorehouse, commanding the 3rd Battalion C. M. G. C., 
reported : "Limbers should be used with four up in case of casualties 



BATTLE OF AMIENS 157 

among the animals. Pack saddlery should be carried even when using 
limbers for moving forward." 

All the Battalion Commanders emphasized the need for motor 
cyclist dispatch riders. Mounted orderlies when used proved invalu 
able. It was found unsatisfactory to rely upon Divisional and Brigade 
report centres for communication between M. G. Company and Bat 
talion Headquarters. 

And undoubtedly the newly-found mobility of the machine guns 
was wasted at Amiens in many instances because of lack of quick 
communication. It was the one particular factor that gave a sense 
of unwieldiness to the new organization, many machine gunners prob 
ably concluded. 

M. G. casualties for the first two days were 75 % of the total stay 
in the Amiens sector, but were extremely light, even when compared 
to the Corps totals for the battle. 

The following table shows the casualties suffered by the four 
Battalions during Amiens : 

Killed Wounded Missing Totals 

Unit O. O.K. O. O.K. O. O.K. O. O.K. 

1st Battalion G. M. G. C - 22 5 82 35 107112 

2nd Battalion C. M. G. C 13 4 83 54 101105 

3rd Battalion C. M. G. C 10 2 38 52 53 55 

4th Battalion C. M. G. C - 16 2 60 *1 12 5 88 93 

"Prisoner of war. 

The transfer of the Canadian Corps from Amiens to the north 
was quickly effected but with no secrecy this time. The 2nd and 3rd 
Divisions entrained in the Boves area on the nights of 19th-20th and 
20th-21st August, respectively. 

On the night of August 24th-25th the 1st Canadian Division 
entrained for the north and the 4th Division was relieved by the 35th 
and 34th French Divisions on the nights of August 23rd-24th and 
24th-25th. "A" Battery was the last to leave, being relieved in the 
early morning of the 25th. The battery suffered 13 casualties from 
enemy gas shelling and long lines of French, blinded by mustard gas, 
left the trenches at the same time, guiding each other by the tails of 
their long great-coats. 

August 8th was later characterized by Ludendorff as "Germany s 
Black Day." 

But to Canadians it was the first flash of a silver lining to a cloud 
of defeat that had hung menacingly over the Western Front since 
those gloomy days of late March. 



158 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

Amiens held an aura of poetic justice, for the spearhead which 
the Canadians had driven through Germany s last hopes was to raise 
those of the Allies incalcuably. 

According to Gen. Sir Arthur Currie s report, the Canadian Corps 
and their auxiliaries had fought against 15 German divisions, and of 
these ten were directly engaged and thoroughly defeated. Five other 
divisions fighting astride our flanks with Australians and French 
were only partially engaged. The Corps had captured 9,131 prisoners, 
190 large guns and thousands of machine guns and trench mortars. 
The area recaptured was over 67 square miles and represented a 
maximum penetration in the 14 days of fighting of over fourteen 
miles. 



The Canadian thrust had opened the way for the unfolding of 
more of Foch s plans. On August 21st the British 3rd Army made a 
large-scale attack north of the Somme and on August 24th opened up 
their bid to regain Bapaume. 




DROCOURT-QUEANT LINE 

(August 28th to September 5th) 

CHAPTER VIII. 

AND so, in the week of August 20th, the 2nd and 3rd Canadian 
Divisions found themselves within hailing distance of their old 
home, Vimy Ridge, and this time there was no mystery surrounding 
intentions. 

Reinforcements had filled up the units as they passed through 
Amiens and the Corps was in grand fighting trim. 

On the nights of August 22nd-23rd and 23rd-24th the 2nd 
Division passed into the trench line, relieving the 15th Imperial 
Division in the Neuville-Vitasse-Telegraph Hill Section south of 
Arras. On the night of the 23rd-24th the 3rd Division went into the 
line on the left of the 2nd, relieving the remainder of the 15th 
Imperials from the Amiens-Cambrai Road to the Scarpe River. 

The setbacks on the Marne, the continued pressure of the British 
over the old Somme battlefields had begun to produce effects and up 
on the north, with the 1st British Army pounding at them, the Ger 
mans had begun to evacuate the salient of the Lys on August 25th. 

The eyes of British G. H. Q. were now focused on Cambria, but 
in between the spearhead thrust of the Canadians was the Drocourt- 
Queant line, important hinge of the famous Hindenburg system and 
key to the whole plan whereby it was hoped that the Germans would 
be blasted out of these supposedly impregnable positions and forced 
out into the open country behind. 

It wasn t until August 22nd that Gen. Sir Arthur Currie received 
details of the operations planned for the 1st Army sector which was 
confronted with four main systems of defence: (1) the old German 
front line system east of Monchy-le-Preux ; (2) the Fresnes-Rouvroy 
line; (3) the Drocourt-Queant line, and finally the Canal du Nord 
line, any one of which were more formidable than trench systems upon 
which mighty offensives of both British and French had previously 
been blunted. 

The first task of the Canadians was to capture the British de 
fences which had been lost in March, 1918, and which were intact for 
5,500 yards, before tackling the German system east of Monchy-le- 



160 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

Preux, the heights of which dominated the ground over which the 
Canadians must advance. 

This was to be no overwhelming surprise as at Amiens. This was 
not to be conceived in the heavy, ponderous blows of the Somme and 
Passchendaele but in the modelled perfection of Vimy of a succes 
sion of Vimys but always with the eyes fixed on far horizons and the 
possible objectives scaled to miles instead of yards. 

The operation was originally scheduled for August 25th, but Gen. 
Sir Arthur Currie represented that this was only 48 hours notice and, 
besides, the Canadian Corps had a superstitious feeling about attack 
ing on the Sabbath Day. The attack was then set for the 26th. 

The general objectives for the attack on the 26th were that the 
2nd Canadian Division was to capture Chapel Hill, then work south 
through the old British support system and join up with the British 
troops on the right on the northern end of the Wancourt Spur, thus 
encircling the enemy troops in the forward area towards Neuville- 
Vitasse. They were at the same time to push forward and capture 
the southern end of Monchy-le-Preux Heights. 

The 3rd Canadian Division was to capture Orange Hill and then 
Monchy-le-Preux. The success of the advance was to be exploited as 
far east as possible. The 51st (Highland) Division was to cover the 
left flank of the 3rd Canadian Division. 

The 2nd Battalion C.M.G.C. (Weir) allotted its companies to bri 
gades as follows: No. 2 Company (Ramsay) to the 6th C.I.B. attacking 
on the right; No. 3 (McCamus) to the 4th C.I.B. attacking on the left, 
and No. 1 Company was to fire the barrage. 

The 3rd Battalion C.M.G.C. delegated its companies as follows: 
No. 1 to the 8th C.I.B. attacking; No. 2 (Drinkwater) to the 7th 
C.I.B. in close support, and No. 3 (McLean) to the 9th C.I.B. in 
reserve. 

Originally the zero hour had been planned for 4.50, the one 
element of surprise left open to the attackers, but this was moved 
ahead to 3 a.m. when final preparations were ahead of schedule. A 
rainstorm drenched the attack just as it started but did not dampen 
the determination with which it pushed off into the murky night to 
the roar and flash of 17 bridgades of 18-pounders, 9 brigades of 
heavies and 30 long-range guns. 

There was some uncertainty in the first few hours of the attack. 
The 8th C.I.B. (Draper) by a baffling encircling attack had captured 
the town of Monchy-le-Preux by 7 a.m., but the 7th C.I.B. did not get 
the trenches in front of them cleared until 11 a.m., and then joined up 
with the 8th. On the right, south of the Arras Road, terrific, close-in 
fighting all morning obscured any certainty of success. The 6th C.I.B. 



DROCOURT - QUEANT LINE 161 

had to throw a defensive flank to the south, 3,500 yards of which 
were occupied by the 27th Battalion and 1,500 yards by the 29th Bat 
talion. Guemappe was captured by 4 p.m. and Wancourt Tower and 
the top of Heininel Ridge by 4.40 p.m. of a long day of heavy fighting, 
and a big factor in the doubtful last stages proved to be an extem 
porary barrage laid down by the 2nd Canadian Divisional Artillery 
(Brig.-Gen. H. A. Panet). During the night the brigade captured 
Egret trench, securing a good jumping off trench in which 500 dead 
Germans were found next day. The brigade had given a fine example 
of a new-found versatility in attack that was to mark the Canadian 
Corps in many days of hard fighting to come when it turned directly 
south in a complete change of direction to sweep up Wancourt Ridge. 
It was at this juncture that a gap occurred in divisional boundaries 
and the Canadian Independent Force (Brutinel), operating along the 
Arras-Cambria road, filled until the situation was adjusted. 

The 4th C.I.B. was through the first German line half an hour 
after zero and rushed Chapel Hill, a machine gun strong point. The 
brigade s casualties were light and they went on fighting into the 
night, getting a footing on Heininel Heights, from where the crossing 
of the Cojuel River could be commanded. 

Batteries of No. 3 Company, 2nd Battalion, C.M.G.C., saw plenty 
of close-up action. "J" Battery went forward with the 21st Battalion 
and saw no action until reaching Nova Scotia trench and then six guns 
took on a duel with numbers of enemy machine guns which were soon 
silenced. 

"M" Battery found at daybreak that they had pushed beyond 
their objective and withdrew to better positions in rear of Minorca 
trench. The battery had escaped casualties even though the positions 
came under heavy shell fire all afternoon. "K" Battery encountered 
heavy machine gun fire from the left about 2,000 yards from the start 
and did not get forward until two tanks waddled up and put these 
guns out of action, killing the crews. During the afternoon the bat 
tery fired behind Guemappe while the 18th Battalion was attacking 
the village. 

"L" Battery followed the 18th Battalion and came into action at 
Nova Scotia trench, where Lieut. Bell on the right of the battalion 
front rushed an enemy machine gun and killed the crew. He had been 
severely wounded before this but insisted on carrying on and later in 
the day was killed. In all 40 prisoners were captured here by "L" 
Battery crews and bombers. The battery employed direct overhead 
fire with good effect. Later on the battery was to replenish its ammu 
nition supply from tanks that had been knocked out. At Gordon 
Avenue the battery guns were finally mounted. Besides Lieut. Bell 



162 



THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES 




DROCOURT-QUEANT LINE 163 

and two other ranks killed, another officer and five other ranks were 
wounded and three other ranks were posted as missing. 

No. 1 Company, 3rd Battalion C.M.G.C., supported the attack of 
the 8th C.I.B. "B" Battery moved off with the 5th C.M.R. and at 
Orange Hill, finding that in the darkness they had got ahead of the 
infantry, moved south towards the Arras-Cambria road, engaging two 
enemy machine guns which they caught on flank, and taking 11 
prisoners. The battery lost one gun during the day but replaced it 
with two German guns. "A" Battery got forward without serious 
casualties and took up positions on Orange Hill for indirect fire into 
Monchy at a range of about 1,800. "C" Battery moved off with the 
4th C.M.R. on the left flank of the brigade attack and took 14 prisoners 
and 2 machine guns. It too lost one gun by shell fire but used two 
German guns to pour a hot fire into Monchy. 

"D" Battery was with the 1st and 4th C.M.R. in their advance 
and, when at 10 a.m. a counter-attack developed from the direction of 
Cigar Copse, brought all guns to bear on the advancing Germans. 
Many of the enemy were killed by the intense fire and the rest forced 
to stay in unsuitable ground until the 7th C.I.B. , pushing through, 
captured them. The battery afterwards assisted with overhead fire in 
the capture of Cigar Copse. At dusk, when an enemy counter-attack 
was reported developing from the Bois de Sart, this battery expended 
5,000 rounds on the enemy assembly area. The attack did not come 
off. The battery lost a gun before opening this barrage. 

No. 2 Company, 3rd Battalion C.M.G.C. (Ings), fired the initial 
barrage. On completion of firing, "E" and "F" batteries moved back 
to St. Laurent and Blangy respectively, ready to move up with the 
7th C.I.B., but "G" battery moved via Orange Hill due southeast and 
reported to the 42nd Battalion just east of Monchy. "H" Battery 
moved forward with the 49th Battalion. 

No. 3 Company went back into division reserve in the afternoon. 

Six thousand yards in depth had been gained on a 10,000-yard 
front at the end of the first day, but there were signs that the task 
mapped out for the Canadians was going to be a very formidable one. 

The next day the battle was renewed, the Canadian barrage open 
ing at 4.55 a.m. The Germans replied immediately, laying a storm of 
shells down on the front line the Canadians had just left and then 
started it creeping backwards. Despite the weight of the explosive 
downpour, Canadian casualties were not heavy at first. At the first 
objective, the Sensee River, a halt of 30 minutes was ordered. After 
this halt our artillery only covered the advance for a short time and 
then ceased until batteries could be brought forward. The 2nd Cana 
dian Division, doggedly pushing forward through the old German 



164 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

trench system, encountered heavy hand-to-hand fighting but crossed 
the Sensee River after capturing the villages of Cherisy and 
Vis-en-Artois. 

The 3rd Division met with stubborn opposition but succeeded in 
capturing Bois de Vert, Bois du Sart, and reaching the western out 
skirts of Haucourt, Remy, Boiry-Notre-Dame and Pelves. 

Immediately the barrage stopped the infantry advance became 
more difficult. The enemy was using a greater number of machine 
guns and was seen bringing batteries of artillery into action in the 
open south of Upton Wood. He reinforced the line with mounted 
infantry. A prisoner stated that the infantry was in process of relief 
by a machine gun battalion. 

No. 1 Company, 2nd Battalion C.M.G.C. (Hobson) went forward 
with the 5th C.I.B. Batteries moved up in limbers, but just in front 
of Wancourt the roads were found impassable owing to trenches and 
wire and, as it was not possible to go across country, equipment had 
to be man-handled from this point. "B" and "C" Batteries saw plenty 
of action and subdued several machine gun nests that were holding up 
the infantry, whose initial pace from Egret trench had been rapid. 
"C" Battery (Much) moved two guns up on the flank of one nest and 
wiped out three German crews as they attempted to bolt. "A" Battery 
covered a gap exposed when Imperials had withdrawn temporarily 
from Fontaine-les-Croiselles and neutralized fire from Fontaine Wood. 

No. 2 Company (Ramsay) was with the 6th C.I.B. less the 29th 
Battalion, which remained in support during this day s fighting. "F" 
Battery operated with the 29th Battalion and was able to bring fire on 
Fontaine Wood. 

"J" Battery of No. 3 Company, 2nd Battalion C.M.G.C., was 
ordered to move forward with the 4th C.I.B., and followed closely the 
advance of the 19th Battalion. Heavy machine gun and direct artil 
lery fire were encountered during this advance. The battery got splen 
did targets when mounted infantry were seen on the opposite side of 
the Sensee River. Some of the men escaped the hail of bullets, but few 
of the horses escaped. Tender-hearted gunners took time out to single- 
shot the kicking, writhing equine victims out of misery. 

"M" Battery supported "J" Battery s advance and came under 
heavy fire. Sergeants Demerse and Duffy were both severely wounded 
but led their sections through to the first objective before being 
evacuated. 

"K" Battery, No. 3 Company of the 3rd Battalion, C.M.G.C., 
moved forward with the 43rd Battalion. No. 1 Section succeeded in 
getting into good positions after going through heavy fire to the right 
of Beetle Trench. "M" and "L" Batteries operated with the 116th and 



DROCOURT - QUEANT LINE 165 

58th Battalions, but the fighting was of such a dogged, uncertain 
nature that batteries had to move cautiously forward. Infantry bat 
talions were charging enemy artillery batteries, firing at them over 
open sights and the 43rd Battalion, worming its way through a laby 
rinth of old British and German trenches, fought groups of the enemy 
in the open with bayonet and bomb while machine gunners held their 
fire. The Highlanders from the west went gaily on into open country, 
half a mile ahead of any other Canadian unit, while behind them was 
a whole German battalion resting in reserve. They used German 
machine guns on this group and then tried to crack the town of Boiry 
but found it held in strength. Two companies were fighting back-to- 
back at one time in the afternoon. They fought their way back 
through the Germans, suffering remarkably few casualties. Man 
handling their guns, and assigned the task of consolidating in depth 
for expected German counter-attacks, the machine gun batteries got 
little chance for spectacular targets. 

Canadian artillery had been switched on Pelves during the after 
noon, enabling the 51st Division to capture Church Trench and thus 
continue northwards the new line the Canadians had established after 
a day of the most sanguinary fighting the troops from the Dominion 
had ever experienced. 

It had been intended to continue the battle on the 28th with the 
1st Canadian Division on the right and the 4th British Division, then 
coming under Gen. Sir Arthur Currie s command, on the left. The 
latter division failed to get up in time and, Gen. Currie s report says, 
as it was undesirable at this time to employ a fresh division alongside 
a division which had already been engaged, the orders issued were 
cancelled and the battle was to be continued by the divisions then 
in the line. 

The 3rd Division, which had had to refuse its flank because the 
enemy was still holding the high ground around Plouvain, resumed 
the attack at 9 o clock on the morning of the 28th, followed at 12.30 
p.m. by the 2nd Canadian Division. The objective was the capture of 
the Fresnes-Rouvroy line, the possession of which was vital to the 
success of further operations. 

On the left, the 3rd Canadian Division had advanced under a 
heavy barrage but the enemy barrage opened up almost as quickly, 
first on our front trenches and then creeping backwards. The 3rd 
Division captured the Fresnes-Rouvroy line from the Sensee River to 
north of Boiry-Notre-Dame and had secured that village, Jigsaw Wood 
and entered Pelves. They had not been able to clear the village of 
Haucourt. 

The severest fighting of the battle was to face the 2nd Division 



166 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

this day. The wire in front of the Fresnes-Rouvroy line was found 
almost intact and the 5th C.I.B. provided an epic in heroism, especially 
the 22nd Battalion. The whole advance had been subjected to heavy 
fire from both flanks as well as frontally, but fought doggedly through 
for hard-won yards. Only on the right did the 2nd Canadian Division 
succeed in getting the first objective, but by late afternoon, except 
for small parties facing the wire of the Rouvroy line, it had to be 
admitted that the line had been advanced very little. 

No. 1 Company (Basevi), 2nd Battalion, C.M.G.C., was detailed to 
attack with the 5th C.I.B. and in the assembly area near the Sensee 
Valley had to wear gas masks for hours before the attack. Heavy 
shell fire took its toll. 

At 12.30 p.m. "A" Battery went forward with the 26th Battalion 
attacking on the right; "C" Battery with the 24th Battalion in the 
centre, and "B" on the left with the 22nd Battalion. Each battery 
disposed its guns in echelon ; four guns in close support and four at a 
distance of about 800 yards in rear. "D" Battery was in reserve near 
battalion headquarters. The attack progressed favorably until the top 
of the ridge was reached across which runs the Vis-en-Artois-Hende- 
court Road. Here the attacking battalions ran into intense machine 
gun fire from Upton Wood and the Sand Pits. In "C" Battery Lieuts. 
Much and Davis went forward to reconnoitre, both being mortally 
wounded. "A" Battery lost Capt. White and Lieut. Young, both of 
whom were wounded, and Lieut. Dudley got the battery to Ulster 
trench finally with five guns left. There the remnants of the battery 
were joined by an officer of the 26th Battalion and eight other ranks 
from the South Lancashires Battalion and from this position they 
repelled two counter-attacks which debouched from Upton Wood. "B" 
Battery lost all its officers, Lieut. Bole being killed, Capt. Morgan, 
Lieut. Tozer and all the N.C.O. s wounded. Pte. Redmond took com 
mand and got to Union trench with only -four guns. "C" Battery had 
also lost all its officers, Lieut. Travis being killed in trying to reach 
Union trench. Three guns under Corp. McAllister ultimately reached 
Ulster trench and three under Corp. Thorn finally won through to 
Union trench. Corp. McAllister took command of the battery and 
increased his crews by collecting infantrymen to act as carriers and 
belt-fillers. Corp. Thorn made several trips across the open to bring up 
ammunition. From here they co-operated with "A" Battery in repel 
ling counter-attacks. 

The 4th C.I.B. with the 20th and 21st Battalions attacking fol 
lowed the artillery barrage at 12.30 p.m. and crossed the Sensee River, 
heading for Olive trench and Ocean work. Again and again with 
bomb and bayonet the infantry tried to thrust forward but were 



DROCOURT-QUEANT LINE 167 

halted by a devastating machine gun barrage liberally weighted down 
with high explosive. 

"K" Battery of No. 3 Company, 2nd Battalion, C.M.G.C., sup 
ported the advance with a barrage. "J" and "M" Batteries attacked 
with the infantry and "L" Battery was held in reserve. No. 2 crew of 
"L" Battery was wiped out before zero hour by an exploding shell. In 
advancing, this battery encountered heavy fire but one section reached 
the sunken road southeast of Vis-en-Artois while the other was to the 
north. From these positions no support could be given as there was 
no field of fire. When the infantry check became definitely admitted, 
the guns were withdrawn to the west side of the River Sensee, from 
where direct overhead fire could be maintained. "M" Battery, sup 
porting the second phase of the attack, eventually took up defensive 
positions which they held with the help of some scattered infantry 
groups, after the battalion holding the line had withdrawn. 

No. 2 Company (McCorkell) was not engaged this day, being in 
reserve with the 6th C.I.B. 

Over on the 3rd Division sector the 8th C.I.B. and 9th C.I.B. 
were the attacking brigades and, although battalions were slightly 
mixed up, the 43rd coming under the 8th and the 4th C.M.R. Bat 
talion under orders of the 9th C.I.B., there was no hitch in arrange 
ments. They attacked under a barrage at 12.30 p.m. after having 
reached the assembly area in the open. 

No. 1 Company, 3rd Battalion, C.M.G.C., was figuring on the same 
barrage line as the artillery, but the machine gun lifts started 10 
minutes earlier than the artillery. 

No. 3 Company sent "J" Battery forward with the 116th Bat 
talion, finally placing six guns in Lady Lane and assisting our 
exhausted, badly-battered but determined infantry to consolidate. 
One of the guns had been destroyed and the other, owing to casualties, 
had not sufficient men left to bring it forward. "M" Battery operated 
close to the 42nd Battalion, and when it was seen that the attack had 
been definitely checked, took up positions in pill boxes on the northern 
outskirts of Boiry. 

The 7th C.I.B. had already pushed off at 5 a.m. of August 28th 
to attack Pelves and by 10.30 all objectives had been gained, including 
Pelves, the trenches to the south and Hat and Kit trenches. At 10.30 
the Princess Pats and the 42nd Battalion thrust for Jigsaw Wood and, 
despite terrific machine gun fire, captured this strong point. The line 
thus gained was consolidated and during the night of August 28th- 
29th was handed over to Brutinel s Brigade. 

"G" operated with the 42nd and eventually occupied defensive 
positions in the Bois du Sart while "H" Battery covered the advance 



168 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

of the 49th Battalion from the Chalk Pit. "E" Battery was located in 
Cune trench ultimately while "F" Battery had been held in reserve. 
It had been an uncertain day for the gunners, with the situation of 
the bitter trench-to-trench fighting always uncertain. 

The 2nd and 3rd Divisions were utterly exhausted by three days 
of bitter fighting and on the night of August 28th-29th were relieved 
by the 4th British Division and, as mentioned before, Brutinel s 
Brigade. 

Minor operations on the night of August 29th had advanced the 
British line. North of the Scarpe the 51st Division had won to the 
crest of Greenland Hill. During the night of August 29th-30th the 
llth Division, which had transferred to the Canadian Corps, relieved 
Brutinel s Brigade and passed to the G.O.C. 22nd Corps, shortening 
the line considerably and relieving Gen. Currie of anxiety caused by 
the length and vulnerability of the northern flank. 

On the 30th, when the 1st C.I.B. daringly attacked under an 
ingenious barrage arranged by the divisional artillery, three batteries 
of machine guns took part. The barrage planned by the artillery not 
only boxed in the whole area but also provided a barrage for each of 
the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions engaged in the smart manoeuvre. The 
battalions jumped off at 4.40 a.m. and by 7.30 had effected a junction 
as planned, though all had met with stubborn resistance. 

Three batteries of No. 1 Company, 1st Battalion, C.M.G.C., sup 
ported this attack and as the infantry slowly but inexorably worked 
their bombing way up trenches, these batteries got fleeting targets in 
small enemy groups breaking overland. Four German guns were 
brought into action by "A" and "B" batteries and fired thousands of 
rounds. 

At noon, when the enemy attacked between Upton Wood and 
Hendecourt, six guns of "A" Battery had good shooting and, when our 
infantry were forced to a temporary withdrawal, "B" Battery covered 
the move. 

On the 31st the remainder of the Fresnes-Rouvroy line south of 
the Arras-Cambria road, including Ocean Work, was captured by the 
2nd C.I.B. In the meantime the 4th (British) Division had pushed 
doggedly ahead, crossing the valley of the Sensee River and winning 
the villages of Haucourt, Remy and Enterpigny. 

That night, the 4th Canadian Division, just in the area a few 
days after continuing the fight at Amiens, went into the line on a 
one-brigade front between the 1st Canadian Division and the 4th 
British. 

September 1st had been set as the date for the final attack on 
the Drocourt-Queant line. When the G.O.C. 4th British Division 



DROCOURT-QUEANT LINE 169 

reported that he was unable to successfully attack on the front allotted 
to him owing to heavy losses in the preliminary fighting, General 
Currie decided to extend the 4th Canadian Division front and a few 
hours before zero the 12th C.I.B. was ordered into the line. However, 
owing to the wire in front of the Drocourt-Queant line not having 
been sufficiently cut, the attack was called off until September 2nd. 

During the afternoon of September 1st and in the evening the 
enemy delivered heavy counter-attacks against the junction of the 
1st and 4th Divisions and twice our troops gave way slightly but 
regained the ground at once. The hand-to-hand fighting for the crest 
continued until actual zero hour for the attack. "E" Battery, in 
support of the 12th C. I. B., fired 10 belts with good effect as one of 
these evening attacks was launched at the 72nd Battalion. 

At 5 a.m. the attack swept forward for the formidable Drocourt- 
Queant line and, although in recent days attacks had been battered 
down to the crawl almost of set-piece attacks, the Corps vision was 
still trained into the distance. There were no limits set but there 
were three definite objectives aimed at and the capture of these 
would carry the attack over 6,000 more yards and over three separate 
lines of trenches in addition to the frowning Drocourt-Queant system. 

The blast of artillery fire, with 50 per cent of it devoted to wire- 
cutting, added a new intensity to modern artillery fire. Counter- 
battery work reached a new peak of efficiency as the thickened-up 
German artillery line was sought out, battery by battery. Up the 
Arras-Cambria road were later to go Brutinel s Brigade, reinforced 
by the 10th Hussars (British) thrusting for an opening. Soon from 
every sector came back cheering news and soon after prisoners, badly 
shaken, came back in thickening lines. 

All machine gun batteries went into the battle with their fighting 
limbers. 

The batteries of the 1st Battalion C. M. G. C. were allotted to 
Brigades on the basis of three to each with three others held in 
reserve. 

The artillery barrage would cease on the Red Line 2,500 to 3,000 
yards east of the jump-off and from then on infantry were to depend 
on machine gun support. 

Nine batteries were allotted by the 4th Battalion C. M. G. C. to 
the attacking Brigades. One Battery from each Company ("D," "E" 
and "J") were assigned barrage work. Eight guns of the 4th British 
Battalion M. G. C. were to provide a rolling barrage in front of the 
10th C. I. B. 

The enemy had never put up a more vari-colored pyrotechnical 



170 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

display than he did on this occasion but our barrage seemed to drench 
it out. 

It was drizzling slightly and the dawn was gloomy, partly mask 
ing our movements. The Canadians seemed to drive as surely forward 
in the darkness as in the daylight. As the attacking brigades surged 
on, reports went back that visioned another Amiens, for the enemy, 
despite all his dogged fighting of the past few days, showed early 
demoralization. 

"K" Battery of the 1st Battalion C. M. G. C., going over with the 
16th Battalion, encountered little opposition until the Drocourt- 
Queant line itself was reached. Heavy machine gun fire from 1,500 
east of Cagnicourt was met here and the battery sent two guns to 
positions northwest of le Brulle to neutralize this fire. During the 
heavy fighting between the Drocourt-Queant line and the support 
line, this battery moved closer to Cagnicourt and kept down enemy 
machine gun fire coming from southwest of the village. During this 
time the Brigade on the right (17th Corps) had been held up and a 
wide gap grew wider and in pushing guns up to cover this flank "K" 
Battery suffered heavy casualties. There were only enough men left 
to carry five guns when the next advance was made to the Buissy 
Switch line and these helped consolidate the line. 

"J" Battery had jumped off with the 13th Battalion and experi 
enced much the same action, except that it came under the point-blank 
fire of enemy batteries firing from Cagnicourt Woods. The Battery 
got its revenge moving to positions 1,000 yards west of Cagnicourt 
Woods, from where it brought direct fire to bear on the German 
artillery and machine guns. Capt. R. H. Morris was severely wounded, 
leaving no officers in the Battery, and Sergt. E. G. Morey took charge. 
In order to engage the enemy more closely, some of the guns were 
moved forward of the Drocourt-Queant line and it was here that the 
crews became involved in a hand-to-hand fight with enemy machine 
gunners. When the 3rd C. I. B s flanks both were up in the air No. 1 
Section was sent forward to establish a flank near the Bois de Loison 
and from there they poured a steady fire into Buissy Switch line. 
Several times during the day our infantry attacked Buissy Switch 
but were driven back and crews of this battery were able to cover 
their withdrawals. Forty-five minutes after zero "L" Battery of the 
No. 3 Company, 1st C. M. G. C. Battalion, moved up behind supporting 
battalions and took up defensive positions in the Drocourt-Queant 
line. 

Three Batteries of No. 2 Company, 1st Battalion C. M. G. C., sup 
ported the advance of the 2nd C. I. B., which met dogged fighting 
beyond the Drocourt-Queant support line, where enemy machine guns 



DROCOURT-QUEANT LINE 171 

were thick and artillery and trench mortars were firing over open 
sights. When stronger than usual opposition was encountered about 
4 p.m. in the afternoon near the factory at the eastern end of Cagin- 
court, a halt was called until artillery support was arranged and at 
a normal dinner hour at 6 p.m. the brigade again charged over, clear 
ing the Buissy Switch and the sunken road east of Villers-les-Cagni- 
court of the enemy. "G" Battery got plenty of action against enemy 
machine gun nests and enemy groups. At 5.45 a.m. Sergt. Billington 
rushed two guns ahead of the infantry and engaged a hostile field 
battery at a range of 800 yards, forcing the enemy crews to retire 
in disorder, leaving many dead. 

A few minutes later Lieut. Harris silenced another field battery 
and when the enemy endeavored to remove still another field battery 
from the high ground east of Cagnicourt all the horses brought over 
the crest of a hill to limber up the guns were killed or wounded. A 
mounted Unter-Offizier tried to take charge of the retirement but he 
was shot down and the German gunners abandoned their guns. Six 
enemy machine guns were captured by this Battery and they were 
turned on enemy positions north of Cagnicourt with good effect. "F" 
Battery kept in close touch with the 10th Battalion and around 9 
o clock, when the battalion flank was exposed on the left and could 
not advance, silenced bothersome machine gun nests. In this episode 
5,000 rounds of German S.A.A.A. was fired from salvaged enemy 
machine guns. When the 10th Battalion, supported by a barrage, 
attacked the Buissy Switch one section supplied indirect overhead 
fire and the other section engaged selected targets until the Switch 
was captured at midnight of the longish day. 

"H" Battery was in 2nd C. I. B. reserve, being distributed in 
defence for the night just east of the Hendecourt-Dury road. 

No. 1 Company of the 1st Battalion C. M. G. C. advanced with the 
1st C. I. B., which found itself committed to the fight at one stage 
when the advance of the 3rd Battalion was too rapid. "A" Battery, 
passing through Cagnicourt, came under heavy fire and when Capt. 
Ferrie and Lieut. Hancock were wounded Sergt.-Major T. Walker took 
command. His quick work saved the Battery further casualties 
though three horses and one limber were knocked out before he extri 
cated the group and then took up positions from which he poured a 
gruelling fire on the enemy. "B" Battery was forced to off load guns 
at 10.30 a.m. 1,200 yards northwest of Cagnicourt and the battery s 
eight guns, together with two captured German guns, were massed 
against enemy machine gun nests near Villers-les-Cagnicourt, enabling 
the infantry to advance with minimum casualties. "D" Battery guns 



172 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

followed up the attack and were disposed for the night in the 
Drocourt-Queant line. 

On the 4th Division Sector the attacking Brigades, 10th and 12th, 
despite the difficulty of their last-minute switch, got off to a good 
start and reached the main Drocourt-Queant line without heavy 
casualties but from there, where they had charged the heavily-manned 
trenches with cold steel, they came under galling machine gun fire 
from the Dury ridge, which was admittedly the worst the Green Patch 
had ever encountered. 

"M" Battery went over with the 72nd Battalion on the right of 
the 4th Divisional frontage and had already had a tuning-up when 
the Germans came across on them the night before. Lieut. Eaton was 
wounded early as the whole battery was forced to man-handle equip 
ment forward owing to the heavy shelling of all roads. 

"L" Battery (Williams) managed to use their limbers right to 
the Drocourt-Queant line and arrived with few casualties, advancing 
by sections. Eventually the guns were left there in defensive 
positions. 

"H" Battery did not start for an hour after zero by request of 
the O. C. 78th Battalion. When our infantry were being badly cut up 
by enemy machine gun fire, guns were rushed to a point south of 
Mont Dury and 400 yards north of the Arras-Cambria road, from 
where two guns secured moving targets. One of these same guns 
silenced a trench mortar battery in action on the right from 1,000 
yards range. When German field guns were operating within 1,500 
yards of the Red Line, Lieut. Carpenter sent back for two guns, but 
owing to heavy shelling these could not get through. 

The 10th C. I. B. ran into its first real setback when intense 
machine gun fire from a sunken road south of Dury and immediately 
north of Mont Dury met its advance, but a skillful outflanking move 
ment captured this position, 120 prisoners being taken together with 
9 machine guns. With the fall of this position the defence of Dury 
collapsed and our troops entered the village, capturing the Area Com 
mandant, his assistant and 100 prisoners. 

No. 1 Company (Britton) was operating with the 10th C. I. B. 

"C" Battery (Rainboth) came under heavy shelling in the 
assembly area, the 0. C. and five other ranks being wounded. The 
battery at one time was headed for positions east of Dury after a 
battalion commander said he had captured the village and was going 
after Recourt, but fortunately the true situation was found out before 
the plans were executed. 

"A" Battery had lost 50 per cent of its strength when drenched 
with gas as it was relieved by French troops at Amiens and had been 



DROCOURT-QUEANT LINE 



173 



COLOURS OF 1st BATTALION C. M. G. C. 

TWO COMMANDING OFFICERS, TWO SECONDS IN COMMAND 

AND THE ADJUTANT 




Lt.-CoI. E. Major V. Grantham, M.C., Capt. L. G. Francis, M.C. 

Sansom, D.S.O., Lieut.-Col. S. W. Watson, D.S.O., Major R. Murdie, D.S.O. 

reinforced by the first "draftees." It was still running in ill-fortune 
it seemed, for on the battle eve, as it moved up in the jet-black dark 
ness in a thickening stream of traffic, it halted for just a moment so 
that the track running across the Arras-Cambria road 100 yards in 
front of the factory near Crater Bridge, over the Cojuel River, might 
be identified. Before the officers could return a sudden, vicious salvo 
of high explosive and gas rained down on the halted battery. When 
Officers and N. C. O s who had been badly gassed staggered back to 
the road, now illuminated by a lorry which had received a direct hit 
and was a mass of flames, they found over half the battery transport 
a twisted mass of wreckage and men and mules in a wild tangle of 
harness. While mules, which the battery had come to know as well 
as the "skinners," were mercifully put out of their misery, one of the 
skinners, badly wounded himself, searched by the roadside. Suddenly 
he found the object of his search. It was Lion, a big Belgian police 
dog, which had adopted the original 10th Company when it first landed 



174 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

in France and had gone through the Somme, Vimy and Passchendaele 
and had been slightly wounded in the salient when he went up the line 
with the mules. 

Only one other rank had been killed but over 20 were wounded. 
The "draftees" had come out of their initiatory ordeal splendidly and 
the battery remnants spent the rest of the night in the open field 
200 yards west of the factory. Later in the day when the battery 
was reorganized and was making its way down into the shallow valley 
to an old trench in the new rear of the now-captured Drocourt-Queant 
Line, a random shell searched it out and as the crew of a section was 
returning to take the rest of their equipment out of a half limber, 
landed direct and blew the vehicle to bits but failed to even scratch 
a driver or mule. 

"B" Battery also ran into trouble, their assembly area beside the 
Arras-Cambria road west of Haucourt being shelled by heavies and 
Lieut. Gill being killed among the other casualties inflicted. The 
battery was later reorganized and went forward using pack mules. 
On reaching Dury, it was found that the advance was held up. The 
44th Battalion had gone through the other battalions but the line 
actually held was the first objective and the guns were ultimately 
placed in depth in and to the rear of the Drocourt-Queant line. 

No. 2 Company was attached to the llth C. I. B. When "H" 
Battery was going to the assembly area on the night of September 
2nd-3rd three bombs were dropped by enemy planes in the midst of 
the transport, killing one driver and wounding six men. Sixteen out, . 
of 20 animals were killed or wounded, five limbers destroyed arid four 
guns and considerable equipment lost. This necessitated "F" Battery 
being detailed to act with the 75th Battalion. 

"F" and "G" Batteries both got guns in position and engaged 
live targets. In all, these batteries expended 16,000 rounds of am 
munition in the first few hours of the attack. Lieut. Leach, M.C., in 
charge of "G" Battery, was killed. 

"F" Battery was asked by the 0. C. 75th Battalion to push for 
ward to fire on Rumaucourt and the transport came under direct 
artillery and machine gun fire, which killed six animals and destroyed 
two limbers, while four guns were put out of action. 

Eventually, the batteries were in defensive positions on the for 
ward slope of Mont Dury, with "H" Battery, by now reorganized, 
sending four guns up. 

"D," "E" and "J" Batteries reported to No. 3 Company (Bailey) 
to join the barrage group. "E" and "D" Batteries found their barrage 
lines masked by the 72nd Battalion, but "J" Battery fired 22,000 
rounds. 



DROCOURT-QUEANT LINE 175 

On the night of September 2nd-3rd our line was a little east of 
the Red Line. At places the infantry had penetrated 1,000 yards and 
even 1,500 yards beyond this line, but a line parallel to the Red Line 
at a distance of 500 yards would give the approximate jumping-off 
line for further contemplated action. 

That same night the 4th (Imperial) Division, on the left, cap 
tured Etaing but that did not halt the enfilade fire of heavies from 
the left, which ranged up and down the Drocourt-Queant line and in 
the support line. Their gunnery wasn t very exact and machine gun 
batteries which chose positions in the open were forced to move 
several times during the night. 

Hard fighting was visioned next day when the attack was to be 
launched at 5 a.m., but this zero hour was later cancelled. Prepara 
tions for an organized attack with a barrage were cancelled also when 
an early dawn patrol reported that the enemy had seemingly with 
drawn across the canal. 

The 1st Division pushed forward first in mid-morning hours and 
met with little serious resistance as they captured the Buissy Switch 
and thrust forward strong fighting patrols. The 2nd C. I. B. had more 
resistance on their sector and suffered severely from machine gun 
and artillery fire from the high ground on the east side of the Canal 
du Nord. 

The 4th Division shoved forward about noon and as the advancing 
units, widely extended, pushed their way slowly down the green 
slopes from the Dury ridge they came under scattered but heavy 
artillery fire and, as they neared the west bank of the Canal, intense 
machine gun fire. Numerous efforts were made to force crossings 
of the Canal but without success. The 102nd Battalion surrounded 
a small wood north of the Cambria road and disposed of its German 
occupants, who held out to a man. By 3 p.m. in the afternoon the 
Division had occupied the villages of Saudemont, Rumaucourt, Ecourt- 
St. Quentin and a large lake on which was a chateau, reportedly used 
as a German army headquarters. French civilians to the number of 
one hundred were found in their stone cottages in Lecluse and Rumau 
court and these, mostly the very old, greeted their deliverers with a 
touching hysterical note. Delicacies they had kept hidden for four 
years were dug from hiding places and offered the Canadians. 

Practically the same picture greeted the advancing troops on 
both the Divisional fronts. On the east bank of the Canal was a 
continuously high ridge, dominated by three eminences that were 
almost peaks, of which Oisy-le-Verger was the loftiest. These sloped 
sharply to the Canal. Most of the Canadian advance was down a 
gentle slope of two miles over a green-carpeted terrain that had been 



176 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

untouched by war for four long years. Rifle and machine gun pits 
here and there and battery positions which had been hastily dug, but 
even with all that haste sheltered over with boards, offered the only 
evidence of attempted defence of this slope. 

A hot September sun blazed down through the afternoon haze 
as the troops pushed forward slowly. From the high ground to the 
south of Buissy, the 1st Division saw evidence of great confusion on 
the east bank of the Canal. Guns, lorries, transport could be seen 
moving eastward along the roads and parties of enemy infantry retir 
ing toward Bourlon Wood. Mounted officers could be seen, without 
success, trying to rally their men. But in distinct contrast to this, 
parties of enemy machine gunners, easily enough picked out for the 
same reasons as our own were always easily recognizable by the 
enemy, could be seen moving westward to the Canal bank apparently 
oblivious of the confusion of retreat around them. 

First Divisional machine gun batteries had common experiences 
too. Some remained in the positions they had occupied the night 
before and employed overhead fire against the canal banks. Duelling 
with low-flying enemy planes was one diversion for some of the bat 
teries distributed in depth. No. 3 Company was in Division reserve. 

There was some confusion on the 4th Division front, one bat 
talion having advanced and then withdrawn. The general advance 
before noon of the llth and 10th C. I. B s met with little opposition 
and, though the advance down the slopes was in plain sight of the 
enemy, he didn t have enough guns to adequately take care of all the 
ideal targets so indifferently offered. Mobile Batteries left their 
transport behind the ridge and man-handled their guns and equipment 
down the slopes. One Battery essayed the advance with pack mules 
and that did arouse the venom of the German gunners. They con 
centrated their hitherto scattered firing on this appetizing target and 
soon the landscape was dotted with mules, standing beside shell holes, 
out of which could be seen the arms of "skinners," holding fast to 
their mokes while they sought to blend into the surroundings. The 
battery escaped unscathed as after the first few salvos the enemy 
apparently considered individual mules were too expensive targets. 

"L" Battery of No. 3 Company had three mules killed when the 
transport was left in the hollow near the Drocourt-Queant line. 

"E" Battery (Hall) of No. 2 Company suffered the heaviest 
casualties of the machine gunners advance, its effective strength 
being reduced to two officers, five N.C.O s and only 17 other ranks 
when they came under one vicious concentration of shell fire as they 
attempted to advance down the slopes. Other batteries, including 



DROCOURT - QUEANT LINE 177 

those of No. 1 Company, sent crews forward singly or in pairs, though 
some were unable to take up final positions until near dusk. 

When reconnoitering a position for a sniping gun near the Canal 
bank just before dusk, Major Bailey of No. 3 Company was severely 
wounded. Lieut. Perkins went back and got a stretcher party and 
covering rifleman and the wounded officer was taken out under heavy 
fire. 

No other day had offered quite the picnic atmosphere to battle 
that September 3rd brought and, generally speaking, machine gun 
casualties were light. 

The formidable Canal du Nord had been reached and it brought 
a sudden lull as darkness came down. Sulky batteries threw over 
scattered salvos in the comparative quiet. Canadians certainly had 
a wonderful two days of accomplishment behind them. They had 
penetrated through five separate and distinct trench systems, with a 
measure of ease compared to other adventures which had seemed less 
formidable, and had thrust another 6,000 yards forward to the ultimate 
goal. The prisoner total now reached over 10,000, of whom 262 were 
officers. Ninety-seven pieces of artillery had been captured and 1,016 
machine guns and 73 trench mortars had been counted in the two 
days operations. Eight enemy divisions had been thoroughly mauled, 
one of them a Cavalry Division. 

Attacks against the Canal were being planned by brigade staffs 
that night, but two more bridges were blown up. It was realized 
that the enemy intended to offer determined resistance with all the 
terrain in his favor and the Corps Commander decided that further 
exploitation of this brilliant success was impossible without thorough 
and elaborate preparation. 

On the night of September 3rd-4th the 2nd and 3rd Divisions 
relieved the tired but exultant 1st and 4th Divisions to conclude a 
battle which at the onset had presented obstacles which were the last 
word in field engineering and, in theory, seemed impregnable. 

Though not won lightly, looking back to August 26th and to the 
jumping-off line now so far to the rear, the whole Corps could not 
escape a sense of bewilderment that the cost had been so low. 



CANAL DU NORD AND CAMBRIA 

CHAPTER IX. 

)\ LTHOUGH the Canadian Corps conducted only minor operations 
** as Divisions in the line and did holding tours awaiting further 
plans of attack, Machine Gunners were kept busy night and day on 
harassing fire programs. The line was thinly held, since the flooding 
of the Sensee and of portions of the Canal du Nord by the enemy 
had made any offensive action by him unlikely and the right flank 
was the only possible point from which he could launch an attack. 
Crossings were- well guarded, but the divisional defence was in great 
depth. 

Preparations for the coming attack were under the observation 
of the Germans from Oisy-le-Verger as well as from Bourlon Wood 
to the right. 

On September llth the 57th British Division attacked Moevres, 
and the guns of No. 2 Company, 2nd Battalion C.M.G.C., joined the 
artillery support for the attack which, however, was unsuccessful. 

All areas were heavily shelled at night and night bombing by 
enemy planes rendered life on this sector anything but peaceful. 

On September 15th, Gen. Sir Arthur Currie received details of 
the forthcoming attack. The Canadians were to again form the spear 
head thrust of operations in which the 3rd and 4th Armies were 
co-operating and were to cross the canal, capture Bourlon Wood and 
the high ground northeast of it to protect the left flank of the attack. 
The date of the operation was definitely fixed for September 27th, but 
on September 22nd the task of the Corps was enlarged to include the 
capture of the bridges over the Canal le 1 Escaut. The llth British 
Division came into the Corps command for this operation. 

The Corps Commander had always been considered the cautious, 
methodical type who demanded a perfection of detail before commit 
ting his Canadians to attacks, but in the amazingly daring conception 
of this attack a tremendous gamble was to be taken that provided 
also a new twist to tactical planning. 

On the Corps battle front of 6,400 yards the Canal du Nord was 
impassable on the northern 3,800 yards. That left, therefore, the 
narrow neck of 2,600 yards through which the Canadian Corps com 
mander proposed to launch two attacking Divisions, the 1st and the 



CANAL DU NORD AND CAMBRIA 179 

4th, with the 3rd following closely behind. When the attacking 
Divisions had gained their first objective near Bourlon the 3rd was 
to thrust in on the right of the 4th Division and attack in an easterly 
direction in liaison with the 17th Corps. The llth British Division 
was to come up on the left of the 1st Division, which was to fan out 
as soon as it crossed the canal, and was to advance in a northeasterly 
direction toward Epinoy and Oisy-le-Verger. 

Even though the element of chance is admitted by Gen. Sir 
Arthur Currie, the measures taken to minimize it are also explained 
as follows: 

"The assembly of the attacking troops in an extremely congested 
area known by the enemy to be the only one available was very 
dangerous, especially in view of the alertness of the enemy. A con 
centrated bombardment of this area prior to zero, particularly if gas 
were employed, was a dreaded possibility which could seriously affect 
the whole operation and possibly cause its total failure. 

"To meet such an eventuality, careful arrangements were made 
by the counter-battery staff officer to bring to bear neutralizing fire 
on hostile batteries at any moment during the crucial period of 
preparation. These arrangements were to be put into effect, in any 
case, at zero hour to neutralize the hostile defensive barrage on the 
front of attack. 

"With the exception of the 2nd Canadian Division, which was 
now holding the entire front and would be in Corps reserve at the 
time of the attack, every resource of the Corps was to be crowded 
into that narrow space." 

The Machine Gun Battalions prepared for the coming attack by 
establishing well-filled dumps of ammunition as close to the line as 
possible. Half a million rounds were placed in one, 100 yards north 
of the crossing of the Baralle-Inchy road and the Queant-Marquoin 
railway; another containing the same number was located at Inchy 
and a third of 300,000 rounds on the Arras-Cambria road, 1,000 yards 
west of the canal. 

The one minor adjustment made was on the front of the 5th 
C.I.B., where the 10th C.I.B. commander wished the enemy driven 
back slightly, and in these operations the 5th were engaged continu 
ously for five days and nights. "E" Battery, in covering a daylight 
attack by the 25th Battalion, used two guns on the wood southeast 
of Inchy and when taken 50 Germans were found who had been killed 
by machine gun bullets. One of the guns was knocked out but the 
crew escaped. 

Constant reconnaissance, both aerial and by patrols, was kept 
up and all information gathered tended to add to the difficulties which 



SECRET 




0,ui 




182 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

had to be surmounted. Numerous ditches on both sides of the canal, 
strong- nests of machine guns and belts of wire expertly placed on 
the east side of the canal made the prospect formidable. 

No. 1 Company of the 3rd Battalion C.M.G.C. was attached to 
the 4th Canadian Division for the purpose of firing a rolling barrage 
in support of the attacking 10th C.I.B. 

No. 1 Company, plus "H" and "L" Batteries, was to go over with 
the 10th C.I.B. ; No. 2 Company was to attack with the llth C.I.B. , 
and No. 3, less "L" Battery, would go with the 12th C.I.B. 

In the 1st Division attack Nos. 1 and 2 Companies were to attack 
with the 1st and 2nd C.I.B s, respectively, and No. 3 Company was to 
fire the barrage. Each had a battery in Divisional reserve. 

Rain and a black night added to the difficulties of assembly for 
the attacking Divisions. Although artillery which had been unable 
to move into position previously jammed the roads and every factor 
was present for the utmost confusion, the units somehow got into 
position and as the roar of the barrage seemed to shake the very 
earth the attacking brigades went over the top at 5.20. A percentage 
of our barrage was a smoke screen to cut off observation from the 
high ground. Although the German counter-barrage came down with 
exceptional rapidity, it thinned out nearly as rapidly, thanks to the 
counter-battery work of the Canadian artillerists. But it was still 
heavy and that so many units got through that small neck with so 
few casualties will always be one of those unexplained miracles of 
war. 

The artillery barrage planned for this show was one of the most 
ingenious yet created by the Canadian gunners, for it too fanned out 
to adequately cover the spreading fan-wise maneuver of a whole 
Corps. 

And in this ringing inferno of sound and shock the chattering 
machine guns had one of the most complicated barrage fire programs 
to fire yet devised. 

Twenty-four batteries were detailed to the barrage. 

Owing to the depth of the advance contemplated by the infantry 
and the consequent deep advance by supporting machine gunners, the 
4th Battalion C.M.G.C. did not participate in the Corps barrage. For 
the same reason the 1st Battalion C.M.G.C. supplied only two batteries. 

On the 4th Divisional front No. 1 Company, 3rd Battalion 
C.M.G.C., supplied the barrage on a line north to south which rested 
at zero on the canal bank on the left flank of the 10th C.I.B. and 300 
yards west of the canal on the right flank. From that line the 
barrage travelled eastwards in lifts of 100 yards every four minutes 
as far as Quarry Wood, roughly 1,000 yards west of the Red Line. 



CANAL DU NORD AND CAMBRIA 183 

This barrage was the right wing of a barrage which ran west 
to east as far north as the Red Line. It was continued on the left 
in the first 1st Division area, eight batteries forming the right sub 
group (Trench) and consisting of four batteries each of the 1st 
C.M.G.C. Brigades. 

The left sub-group (Grantham) laid down a barrage which 
opened at zero plus 20 minutes on the Red Line. The left of the bar 
rage rested on the Canal du Nord and its average width was 2,000 
yards. It travelled almost north (i.e., in the direction of the Canal 
du Nord) in lifts of 100 yards, through Marquoin, until at zero plus 
400 it reached Sauchy-Lestree (north of the Blue Line), where it 
ended. The rate of progress of this barrage varied. For 20 minutes 
from the Red Line it lifted 100 yards every four minutes, then 100 
yards every 10 minutes up to zero plus 180 minutes. From the south 
ern outskirt of Marquoin to the Arras-Cambria road the barrage only 
travelled 400 yards in 70 minutes. From there northwards to Sauchy- 
Lestree it lifted 100 yards every five minutes. Batteries Nos. 1 to 12 
laid down the barrage running west to east for the capture of the Red 
Line ; Batteries Nos. 13 to 24 laid down the barrage running south to 
north for the advance from the Red to the Blue Line. 

The barrage laid down by the left sub-group was arranged in 
such a way as to cover the swampy ground extending from just north 
of Sains-le-Marquoin to the Arras-Cambria road and north of this 
to Sauchy-Lestree. In depth it extended over the Canal du Nord and 
the Marquoin Line, which was the main line of defence covering the 
Canal du Nord. 

The attack was planned with a view to leaving the swamp as a 
pocket and the machine gun fire was to keep down snipers from among 
the trees and to disorganize the defence while the main attack pro 
ceeded south of the swamp over the dry part of the canal. Most of 
the barrage guns escaped enemy shells, but 90 minutes after zero 
several enemy machine guns in the Wood 500 yards north of Sains- 
les-Marquoin caused casualties in "C" sub-group. 

In all 320,000 rounds were expended by these sub-groups and 
effectively expended judging by reports afterward and a new adapt 
ability had been marked up for machine gunnery in a barrage role. 

No. 1 Company batteries of the 4th Battalion C.M.G.C. man 
handled guns and ammunition, six-men crews carrying 4,000 rounds 
per gun. "H" Battery came into action when the 52nd Division 
(British), on our right, experienced trouble and from the Red Line 
expended 7,500 rounds. It then moved forward and denied a sunken 
road near Anneux to enemy concentrations. Other batteries secured 
good targets as far east as Bourlon Village and Wood and then as the 



184 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

12th and llth Brigades leap-frogged on to Bourlon Wood used direct 
overhead fire. The 63rd Naval Division was slow in getting up and 
the llth C.I.B. battalions suffered heavy casualties. It dealt with a 
counter-attack assembled by three enemy battalions, crushing the plan 
in the bud. 

No. 2 Company batteries started off at zero plus two hours. "G" 
Battery (Johnston) used pack mules half way to the north side of 
Bourlon Wood and came into contact with the enemy at the end of 
the sunken road on the northern outskirts of the wood. The guns 
brought into action here caught numerous parties of the enemy as 
they scuttled over the open. This battery assisted, by flanking and 
overhead fire, the attack of the 75th Battalion on trenches east of 
Fontaine-Notre Dame, scene in 1917 of the Guards Brigade heroic 
stand. "F" Battery operated with the 102nd Battalion around the 
south side of Bourlon Wood but had lew targets. 

No. 3 Company (Logan) attacked with the 12th C.I.B. and took 
quick advantage of several good targets offered. Two guns of "3" 
Battery from positions northeast of Bourlon Wood scattered con 
fusion in an enemy field gun battery, firing over open sights from a 
point 1,000 yards west of Raillencourt, but, generally speaking, the 
situation was too obscure most of the time for the gunners to do more 
than consolidate in depth as they followed up the general line of 
attack. 

On the 1st Division sector the front was so narrow that the 4th 
Battalion was assigned the task of effecting the canal crossing with 
other elements of the brigade leap-frogging at the Red Line. The 
attack fanned out to a two-battalion front and then to a brigade. 

Nos. 1 and 2 Companies of the 1st Battalion C.M.G.C. supporting 
the 1st and 3rd C.I.B s, respectively, and No. 3 was firing the barrage. 

"A" Battery of No. 1 Company (Morrison) organized a local 
covering barrage for the 4th Battalion s attack, firing for half an 
hour, first on the canal and then on the defence line which was a 
series of connected shell-holes. Later they moved up with the 3rd 
Battalion as it leap-frogged through, having no trouble until 1,000 
yards east of Sains-les-Marquoin, where they came under intense 
machine gun fire. Six guns came into action as the 3rd Battalion was 
held up and excellent targets came into the sight along the Arras- 
Cambria road as large enemy groups broke for cover. Just as ammu 
nition was running short, the pack mules arrived with an extra supply. 

"C Battery (Dewart) moved forward with the 4th Battalion 
seven minutes after zero, entirely escaping the hostile barrage fire, 
but near Deligny Mill came into heavy artillery and machine gun fire. 
About 1,000 yards west of Bourlon Village four guns of this battery 



CANAL DU NORD AND CAMBRIA 185 

came into action against groups on the enemy near the Arras-Cambria 
road. All guns of the battery came into action farther forward and 
during this action both officers were wounded. 

At zero plus 15 minutes "D" Battery (Jordan) also moved for 
ward with the 4th Battalion, splitting up into sections to make the 
crossing of the canal and then later re-assembling. No. 1 Section 
came into action west of the Marquoin Line from positions in shell- 
holes and when a field gun was spotted in the vicinity of Deligny Mill 
Corp. Beattie moved two guns forward, while Lieut. McMullin and 
Sergt. Coombe worked around the flank, rushed the gun and captured 
it, together with its crew of 10. No. 2 Section found plenty of targets 
north of Bourlon Village and saw No. 1 Section salvage two enemy 
machine guns, from which they fired 3,500 rounds. When just forward 
of the Marquoin Line an enemy machine gun, strongly entrenched, 
was causing terrific casualties. Pte. Holloway went forward with a 
tank, bayoneted the gunner, shot two of the crew and took six 
prisoners. 

The 14th did the single-battalion attack on the 3rd C.I.B. front 
and suffered heavy casualties as it stormed the canal. Two tanks 
detailed to cut wire had not come up, the woods on the east bank of 
the canal had not been cleared of the enemy and direct machine gun 
fire swept the brigade s attack and also that of the llth British 
Division on the left. 

No. 2 Company (Denholm), 1st Battalion C.M.G.C., was assigned 
to the 2nd C.I.B. All elements of the brigade fought stubbornly for 
every few hundreds of yards advance in the early stages, but the 1st 
Division swept rapidly forward after the second phase, capturing 
Haynecourt and crossing the Douia-Cambria road, the llth Division 
(British) keeping pace by turning northward and capturing Epinoy 
and Oisy-le-Verger by evening. 

"G" Battery (Maynard) sent No. 1 Section forward with the 
leading company of the 7th Battalion. As the attack reached the 
southern outskirts of Marquoin it was held up by an enemy strong 
point and Corp. Wilson immediately opened fire at point-blank range 
and as two other guns were rushed forward to shell-holes and opened 
up Wilson rushed his crew to the flank, from where he inflicted severe 
casualties on the enemy. The infantry coming up, the strong point 
was rushed and 50 prisoners, together with 6 light machine guns, 
were bagged. The section came into action again on the Marquoin 
line west of Dartford Wood, firing on large enemy groups in the 
vicinity of Sauchicourt Farm. No. 2 Section pushed up via the Mar- 
quoin line and from 1,000 yards south of the Arras-Cambria road 



186 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

concentrated an intense fire on enemy positions eastward along the 
main road. 

"K" Battery (Macintosh) went over with the 5th Battalion. No. 
1 Section reached Haynecourt without serious casualties, skirted the 
village and came into action on the south side against retreating 
groups. They moved to the north side of the village and got more 
good targets but were too far ahead and were withdrawn west of 
Haynecourt. No. 2 Section came into action on the southern edge of 
Leek Wood, getting many sustained bursts off against enemy parties 
and two of the guns a few moments later, as they moved along the 
north of the Divisional boundary, caught an enemy battery moving 
at a brisk trot north of Epinoy. The gun under Sergt. Kearse caught 
a wagon moving east from north of Haynecourt. The wagon was 
turned over in the confusion and Pte. Lumsden and Corp. Ellis pushed 
out and captured the vehicle and the two drivers, who surrendered. 
The captors returned in state, riding the captured mounts. 

"F" Battery (Herridge) was with the 10th Battalion and when 
nearing the Arras-Cambria road came under heavy shell-fire. They 
went into action here against enemy field guns between Haynecourt 
and Raillencourt and from the outskirts of the former they caught 
other batteries in movement as well as infantry groups. Five thousand 
rounds brought results for one battery, which, after cutting loose 
wounded horses, had to man-handle the guns away. 

"B," "H" and "X" Batteries were in Divisional reserve and by 
7 p.m. had been moved up into positions east of Sains-les-Marquoin 
and later were moved up to protect the right flank east and southeast 
of Haynecourt, which was exposed when the 4th Division did not 
get quite up owing to the failure of the 17th Corps on the right again 
to keep pace. 

The 4th Division, however, did later attack from the north side 
of Bourlon Wood and captured all the high ground, pushing patrols 
as far as Fontaine-Notre Dame, and so the position of the 1st Division 
was not as precarious as, at times, it seemed. However, the only 
flaw in the day s operations came when the encircling movement to 
capture Bourlon Wood could not be put into operation and the thrust 
planned for the 3rd Division could not be executed. 

During the night September 27th-28th the 3rd Division relieved 
a portion of the 4th Division and the 3rd, 4th and 1st Canadian 
Divisions and the llth (British) in that order from right to left were 
in battle positions. The 3rd and 4th Divisions attacked at 6 a.m. the 
following day. In view of its advanced position of the day before, 
the 1st Division did not attack until 9 a.m. 

On the 3rd Division front the 9th and 7th C.I.B s attacked ; the 



CANAL DU NORD AND CAMBRIA 187 

10th C.I.B. attacked on the 4th Division front and the 2nd C.I.B. on 
the 1st Division s sector. 

The 3rd Division was forced to attack through the llth C.I.B., 
which had been unable to capture Fontaine-Notre Dame during an 
evening and a whole night of stubborn fighting. 

The fresh 3rd Division completed the first part of their operation 
in jig time and by 9 a.m. the 43rd Battalion had won Fontaine-Notre 
Dame. But it ran into desperate resistance at the Marcoing Line and 
an attack planned for 3 p.m. was postponed until 7 o clock in the 
evening to get more adequate artillery support. By 11 p.m., in the 
darkness, the 43rd, 58th and 116th Battalions were holding a line 
facing southwest astride the Cambria-Bapaume road, in the Marcoing 
Line and one company of the 116th had pushed as far as the outskirts 
of St. Olle. 

No. 3 Company (Burnham) of the 3rd Battalion C.M.G.C. was 
allotted to the 9th C.I.B. attack. 

"M" Battery defended the flank of the 43rd Battalion near Fon 
taine and "I" Battery went forward with the 52nd Battalion. When 
the infantry was held up by the Marcoing Line this battery used 
direct overhead fire, getting off 8,000 rounds and putting two enemy 
machine guns out of action. 

The 7th C.I.B. attack was swept by intense machine gun fire, 
which caused heavy casualties. No. 1 Company (Fowler) supported 
this attack. "F" and "G" Batteries accompanied the R.C.R. and 
Princess Pats and, while the latter did not get into action until later, 
"F" Battery, reaching a position south of Raillencourt, brought its 
eight guns into action against the Marcoing Line just south of its 
junction with the Arras-Cambrai road. Later on in the morning "M" 
Battery went forward with the 49th Battalion attack, with "P" 
Battery in support. They took up positions east of Sailly and swept 
the Arras-Cambria road and the Village of St. Olle, part of Cambrai s 
wide outskirts, with their fire. "N" Battery also saw action, taking 
up positions in the Marcoing Line south of Sailly. 

In the early stages of the 10th C.I.B s attack little opposition 
was encountered up to the Marcoing Line, but from here the most 
intense machine gun fire that the brigade had ever experienced swept 
the level, open plain on which they finally emerged and which 
stretched toward Cambrai s outskirts. The 47th Battalion fought its 
way around the north of Raillencourt and the 50th Battalion reached 
the Marcoing Line after the severest kind of fighting. 

No. 1 Company (Britton) of the 4th Battalion C.M.G.C. went 
over with the 10th C.I.B. "H" and "L" Batteries were attached from 
Nos. 2 and 3 Companies and were employed as brigade reserve. 



188 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

When the advance was held up in the vicinity of the Douai- 
Cambria road by enemy machine gun nests all the batteries suffered 
severely and were forced to dig in, out in the open. "B" Battery 
helped break up a strong enemy counter-attack when the 44th Bat 
talion was driven back 700 yards from the railway line. The 47th 
Battalion later re-established the line, but the enemy held trenches 
in front of the 4th Canadian Division between 500 and 700 yards west 
of the Douai-Cambria road until the organized attack in conjunction 
with the 7th C.I.B. at 7 p.m. won back the original ground. 

Lieut. French, M.C., was the only officer killed but of the No. 1 
Company batteries by nightfall all the batteries had lost an officer 
and in the case of several, including "A" Battery, all their officers. 
In one case one officer had command of 16 machine guns and a number 
of infantry who had collected in the vicinity. Another officer had his 
batman catch a German horse which, with carbine slung at its side, 
was galloping aimlessly about between sporadic shell bursts. A 
strongly-built stone barn, part of a chateau-like farmhouse group on 
the northern outskirts of Raillencourt, seemed to offer a safe haven 
for the capture, but just a few minutes later when the same officer 
was wounded and bethought him of his charger to save the pain of 
walking on a shattered foot, the charger was nowhere to be found. 

Nine officers of this company woke up at base hospital two nights 
later to find themselves side by side. 

On the 1st Division front the 10th Battalion was attacking and it 
was met with a heavy machine gun fire from the high grounds on both 
flanks where the attacks had not come up. It became apparent that 
the attack could not succeed, but in spite of this the battalion went 
bravely forward against the enemy entanglements and calmly com 
menced cutting passages through by hand. For two hours this 
unequal fight went on in spite of swiftly diminishing numbers. 

Threatened enemy counter-attacks between 3 and 4 o clock in 
the afternoon were crushed by artillery and machine gun fire. 

No. 2 Company (Denholm), 1st Battalion C.M.G.C., went forward 
with the 10th Battalion. Lieut. Norris of No. 2 Section, "F" Battery, 
in a daring attempt to push his guns forward from a sunken road 
near Sancourt, was killed and then the guns were taken back to higher 
ground west of the Douai-Cambria road and from there they poured 
a sustained fire into Sancourt. No. 1 Section had better luck, getting 
into trenches west of the Cambrai-Douai road without sustaining a 
casualty. There they remained during the day, getting momentary 
targets and concentrating on suspected strong points. "E" Battery 
went up on the left of the 10th and "C" Battery followed later and 
both consolidated against anticipated counter-attacks which did not, 



CANAL DU NORD AND CAMBRIA 189 

however, develop. Other officers of the 1st Battalion C.M.G.C. made 
a reconnaissance of the area, since their batteries were at an hour s 
notice to push up into defensive positions against hostile attacks. 

The advance had taken a heavy toll in casualties and it was 
driven home to the Corps that such formidable defence systems as it 
had conquered earlier in the month did not constitute all of war s 
worst obstacles. 

It had been a field day for the enemy machine gunners. The 
enemy s artillery fire had been kept well down by our own batteries, 
but the German machine gunners, thrown into the fight in exceptional 
numbers, with a flat plain intervening, had a field of fire which meant 
annihilation to attackers. By the same token machine gunners in 
the attack were at an exceptional disadvantage as the heavy casualty 
list of all ranks demonstrated. 

Orders that night provided for a continuance of the attack the 
next day. The 3rd Division was attacking with the 9th and 7th 
C.I.B s; the 4th Division assigned the 12th C.I.B. to the attack and 
the 2nd C.I.B. was to do the thrusting for the 1st Division. 

The attacks were launched at 6 a.m. and all along the line stub 
born resistance was met in addition to heavy artillery and machine 
gun fire. The 3rd Division pushed the line forward to the junction 
of the Arras and Bapaume road, the western outskirts of Neuville 
St. Remy and the Douai-Cambria road. They also cleared the Mar- 
quoin Line from the Bapaume-Cambria road southwards towards the 
Canal de 1 Escaut. These trenches were in the 17th Corps area, but 
it was difficult for the Division to advance, leaving this strongly-held 
position on its flank and rear. 

The 4th Division captured Sancourt, crossed the Douai-Cambria 
railway and entered Blecourt, but later withdrew to the line of the 
railway before a heavy counter-attack. The llth Division in two 
attacks had been unable to win the high ground northeast of Epinoy 
and this interfered with the progress of the 1st Division s attack, the 
Red Patches having to give up positions gained earlier near Abancourt 
Station. So the 4th Division had been in its turn effected. 

"K" and "J" Batteries of the 3rd Battalion C.M.G.C. attacked 
with the 58th and 116th Battalions, respectively. "K" Battery got 
off 10,000 rounds in indirect and direct fire and two guns helped out 
the 58th when it was held up in front of the Marcoing Line. 

"J" Battery also got off 10,000 rounds and caught many groups 
of the enemy as they suddenly broke from cover in short retirements. 
However, two guns were put out of action by shell-fire during the day. 

"A" and "B" Batteries accompanied the 1st and 2nd C.M.R. Bat 
talions in their attack. Four guns went up on the flanks of the 



190 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

attacking battalions from each battery and four were kept 500 yards 
in rear for defence in depth. The guns going forward with the attack 
ing waves used light mounts and these proved much less cumbersome 
to handle and for the work required were vastly more effective. 

One gun of "B" Battery, when 500 yards northeast of St. Olle, 
was met with heavy machine gun fire from the high ground in front. 
The officer in charge of this section was killed and all the crew became 
casualties except Pte. Dick, who pushed forward as far as possible, 
taking the gun and two boxes of ammunition. He got into a com 
manding position and opened fire on enemy machine guns, killing over 
30 of the enemy gunners. 

Both the advanced sections of these batteries did fine work in 
neutralizing enemy machine gun fire, which was intense at the least 
sign of movement. 

"G" and "E" Batteries moved off with the 42nd Battalion on the 
left of the 7th C.I.B. attack, but this thrust did not progress beyond 
the Douai-Cambria road, being held fast by wire and such intense 
hostile fire that it was foolhardy to face it. These two batteries suc 
ceeded in reaching the road but suffered heavy casualties in the 
attempt. 

"K" and "M" Batteries of the 4th Battalion C.M.G.C. attacked 
with the 38th and 72nd Battalions. "K" Battery reached the Douai 
road, but fell back when it was seen that the attack could not progress. 
The guns were withdrawn to a trench astride the light railway 1,000 
yards northeast of Sailly. "M" Battery had four guns up with the 
72nd Battalion, which reached Blecourt but could not penetrate this 
strongly-held point. The Highlanders retired their line to the railway 
and later were forced to withdraw the left of that line back to 
Sancourt. These developments and setbacks forced the cancellation 
of plans for the 78th and 85th to attack on through and "L" and "J" 
Batteries took up defensive positions. 

"F" Battery, 1st Battalion C.M.G.C., attacked with the 8th Bat 
talion and, though the attack went well just at first, it was stopped 
and finally had to repel three enemy counter-attacks. No. 1 Section 
brought all four guns to bear on an enemy battery in the vicinity of 
Blecourt. "E" Battery, in support of the attack, could not get into 
action as the situation remained so obscure from the early setback. 
It was established in a strong defensive position, however, and the 
imminence of counter-attacks made this role assumed by supporting 
batteries tremendously important, if not spectacular. 

Back again on September 30th went the Canadians into an 
attack, planned in two phases. In the first stage the 3rd and 4th 
Canadian Divisions were to capture bridgeheads on the Canal de 



CANAL DU NORD AND CAMBRIA 191 

1 Escaut. In the second stage the 1st Canadian Division and the llth 
British Division on the left were to secure the high ground over 
looking the Sensee River. 

The attack commenced favorably, the 3rd Division taking Tilloy 
and the 4th capturing Blecourt. However, heavy counter-attacks 
with severe enfilade fire from the left drove the 4th Division and the 
3rd back again to the general line, Sancourt-Tilloy. The 1st Division, 
when it found that the 4th had been forced back, concluded the second 
phase as planned could not be successful and its operation was 
cancelled. 

No. 2 Company of the 3rd Battalion C.M.G.C. supported the 
attack of the 7th C.I.B. 

"F" Battery (Roe) gave covering fire on Neuville St. Remy and 
at one phase was 500 yards in front of the enemy, where they killed 
an enemy machine gun crew in a pill-box and from the pill-box got 
off several thousand rounds before deciding the attack wasn t coming 
up and withdrew. "H" Battery used indirect fire on the road junction 
north of Tilloy and from the railway east of the Douai road three 
guns of "C" Battery brought a deadly fire to bear on parties of the 
enemy who were dribbling into Tilloy. 

No. 2 Company (Pearce) of the 4th Battalion C.M.G.C., was 
detailed to support the llth C.I.B. attack behind a smoke screen that 
unfortunately wasn t thick enough and which was soon blown away 
by a wind that suddenly whipped up. 

Resolute opposition met the attack from the onset. The 75th 
Battalion, although suffering heavy casualties, did reach and hold the 
railway south of Sancourt, which had been the centre of enemy resist 
ance the day before. It was dark when the attack pushed off at 6 
a.m., but with daylight resistance everywhere increased. "F" Battery 
pushed up to the railway cutting without suffering undue casualties, 
despite the density of the fire. From there, this battery got some 
excellent targets. 

No. 1 Company had been ordered up in support but later was 
moved back and resumed the positions vacated. 

On October 1st it was decided that the whole Corps would attack 
under a heavy barrage. 

The attack made excellent progress in the early stages. At 8 
a.m. the line had been advanced to the canal bank on the right, touch 
ing the northern outskirts of Cambria, thence along the canal to 
Morenchies Wood (inclusive). The towns of Cuvillers, Bantigny and 
Abancourt were captured. 

At 10 a.m. heavy enemy counter-attacks developed from Paillen- 
court up the Bantigny Valley. Our troops were driven back. The 



192 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

flank on the left of the 1st C.I.B. was exposed and this fact made 
progress difficult. The 3rd Division was held up definitely by intense 
artillery and machine gun fire as they attempted to push down the 
exposed slopes towards the Canal de 1 Escaut. 

With ten Divisions, two regiments of machine guns and special 
marksmen companies crowded into this narrow front, the reckless 
use of reserves by the enemy forced the Canadians back but at a 
tremendous cost to the Germans. Masses of the enemy troops were 
caught by well-directed artillery fire in the Bantigny Valley and their 
losses were tremendous. 

No. 3 Company of the 3rd Division operated with the 9th C.I.B. 
on October 1st. "M" Battery laid down a barrage for the attack on 
suspected strong points, getting off 16,000 rounds from zero to zero 
plus 15 minutes and then advanced with the 43rd Battalion. The 
battery was 1,000 yards west of Ramillies at 10 a.m., when counter 
attacks began to develop. They helped beat off one counter-attack 
with 3,000 rounds and, ironically enough, the four guns used were 
German. 

No. 2 Company (Pearce) of the 4th Battalion C.M.G.C. again 
supported the llth C.I.B. attack, going forward with the 102nd, 
through which the 87th later leap-frogged. The batteries secured 
good targets but suffered extremely heavy casualties. The left flank 
was in a critical condition at one time and the 0. C. No. 2 Company 
received orders to cover this flank. Ten of his guns were out of 
action, but he placed the others in defensive position facing north 
ward. Ten guns were placed along the railway embankment from 500 
to 1,000 yards south of Sancourt, four guns were located 500 yards 
east of Sancourt and eight guns southeast of the same village. Besides 
these 22 guns there were 36 guns of the 2nd Battalion C.M.G.C. now 
in the line, distributed in depth and prepared to give the enemy some 
of his own machine gun medicine so disastrously ladled out in these 
last few days. 

The 1st Division attacked with two brigades, the 1st and 3rd 
Battalions of these two brigades suffering heavily as they pushed 
forward in the face of the most stubborn opposition and under intense 
fire. 

No. 3 Company (Grantham) supported the 3rd C.I.B. and played 
an important role. "M" Battery pushed forward to positions east 
of Blecourt and when counter-attacks compelled the infantry to 
withdraw poured 6,000 rounds at the advancing enemy. Two guns 
were put out of action by shells and casualties were heavy. 

"J" Battery lost a gun in its advance under heavy fire to the south 
of Cuvillers. When the infantry withdrew, one of the crews was 



CANAL DU NORD AND CAMBRIA 193 

almost surrounded. They held off the enemy with rifles and bombs 
while they removed the lock and feed block from the gun, for which 
they had no more ammunition. 

"L" Battery got off 2,500 rounds at parties of the enemy assem 
bling in the vicinity of Abancourt. A captured gun was turned on 
low-flying enemy planes. The other section lost one gun 1,000 yards 
east of Blecourt and another gun got off 750 rounds at hostile infantry 
near Abancourt before a shell put it out of action. 

The guns of this battery repeatedly covered short withdrawals 
of our infantry. Establishing positions northeast of Sancourt, four 
guns fired a protective barrage. The other four guns, in position just 
east of Blecourt, found seven officers and 125 other ranks of the 
infantry with eight Lewis guns and helped form a strong point, which 
was defended for four hours. During the defence Sergt. McCall 
brought in three enemy machine guns and mounted them. Runners 
were sent back to get assistance, but when none was forthcoming 
and with the ammunition all expended, the little garrison withdrew 
to the railway line just east of Sancourt. 

No. 1 Company supported the attack of the 1st C.I.B. on the left 
of the Corps advance and had, in addition, "B," "H" and "K" Bat 
teries from Divisional reserve. 

"H" and "K" Batteries advanced with the 1st Battalion, the 
former encountering an enemy strong point 900 yards northeast of 
Sancourt and in 1,500 rounds silencing its four machine guns. Two 
of these captured guns were manned and the fire of ten guns con 
centrated on Abancourt station and church and numerous targets as 
they came into view. Lieut. Sheringham went forward to reconnoitre 
but was not seen again and Lieut. Carter was wounded, whereupon 
Sergts. Cuthbertson and Boulet took command. Two enemy machine 
guns firing from a small trench were rushed and the crews killed by 
Sergt. Boulet and Corp. Collyer. The battery at dusk covered the 
retirement of our troops. 

"K" Battery lost both its officers (Knill and Turk) as the battery 
was concentrating on a German 7.7 battery firing from north of 
Blecourt and Sergt. Pell took charge. Two guns of "K" Battery were 
destroyed by shell-fire at 6.30 p.m. The others remained in position, 
but before retiring two more had been put out of action by shell and 
machine gun fire. The remaining guns, with a heavy German machine 
gun, were organized in a defensive position on the road running north 
of Sancourt, from where they caught the enemy advancing from 
Abancourt. During the time the battery was being reorganized, Lieut. 
More and Sergt. Mabley encountered a party of 40 Germans making 
(heir way toward Abancourt station and with some men of the 1st 



194 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

Battalion they engaged this party with revolvers and rifles, killing 
over 20, the rest escaping. A short time after, the same pair charged 
a small trench 1,000 yards northeast of Sancourt and captured one 
officer and 17 men. 

"A" Battery moved forward with the 4th Battalion through 
heavy machine gun fire. It was found necessary to form a defensive 
flank to the left and 4,000 rounds were fired from here. The advance 
continued to the sunken road 1,500 yards east of Epinoy and here 
Sergt. Holmes turned a captured enemy field gun around and fired 
20 rounds point-blank at enemy targets. When the infantry attack 
was held up, the guns were moved back 500 yards and from these 
positions 8,000 rounds were fired at enemy groups 1,700 yards south 
of Preshies. 

"D" Battery advanced with the reserve company of the 4th and 
both sections were forced to advance by short rushes from shell-hole 
to shell-hole. Both engaged enemy machine guns in the advance, 
eventually reaching the sunken road north of Sancourt. 

The results of the October 1st fighting were to confirm Sir Arthur 
Currie in the belief that the point had arrived at which to break off 
the battle and this he accordingly did. 

Infantry reliefs on the night of October 1st had thinned out their 
strength very considerably and for this reason a very large number 
of machine gun batteries were distributed in depth, since machine 
gun units attached to infantry being relieved stayed on and incoming 
machine gun units brought the strength to double normal fire power. 

It was anticipated that the enemy might launch a desperate 
attack on a large scale to drive the Canadians back on Bourlon and 
two hours before dawn of October 2nd a terrific Canadian barrage 
was laid down, which included machine guns and trench mortars. But 
when day broke the German line was uncannily quiet. To the south 
the Germans were retreating and the Imperials were freeing town 
after town and finding little opposition. 

In a special order on October 3rd Gen. Currie gave a resume of 
the Corps exploits. At one point he said: "How arduous has been 
the task assigned to you can be judged by the fact that, whereas in 
the operations of the 1st, 3rd and 4th Armies 36 enemy divisions 
have been engaged, 12 of these divisions, supported by 11 independent 
machine gun units, have been met and defeated by the Canadian 
Corps. 

"Even of greater importance, you have wrested 69 towns and 
villages and over 175 square miles of French soil from the defiling 
Hun. 

"In two months you have, with three British divisions which 



CANAL DU NORD AND CAMBRIA 195 

have been attached to the Corps, encountered and defeated decisively 
47 German divisions one-quarter of the whole German forces on the 
Western Front." 

Until October 8th there was no territorial change on the Cana 
dian Corps frontage, although harassing fire was constant and intense 
on both sides. The British used a new gas just at this time, which 
was reported as tremendously effective. 

The 3rd British Army to the south was still advancing and by 
October 8th was ready for its attack on Awoignt. The attack was 
not a complete success and this complicated somewhat plans for a 
night attack by the 2nd Canadian Division set for the next day. 
However, the plans were followed, the 2nd Division to aim for 
Escaudouevres and the high ground east of there. As soon as the 
Division had seized these points and Morenchies, Point d Aire, 
Ramillies, Brutinel s Brigade was to dash through and seize the high 
ground east of Thun St. Martin. The 3rd Division was to advance 
through Cambria, protecting the flank of the 2nd, which was bound 
to be up in the air for some time after a night attack. 

The 2nd Division s attack was launched through rain and jet 
blackness at 1.30 a.m. and they swept down the glacis which, in day 
light, was in full view of the enemy on the high ground east of the 
canal. Their progress was rapid and by 2.25 a.m. they had won 
Ramillies. On the right the infantry, assisted by the Engineers, had 
rushed the crossings at Point d Aire and after a brief, sharp fight 
captured the bridge intact. Two cork bridges were thrown across 
and by 3.35 a.m. our infantry were strongly established on the eastern 
side of the canal. By 8 a.m. the 2nd Division had captured Escaud- 
oeuvres, had established a line to the north and east and detachments 
of the 3rd Division had completely cleared Cambria, which had been 
generally evacuated the night before, and on the east side of the 
coveted city being put to flame by the Germans, troops of the 3rd 
Army could be seen coming up from the south. Thus was Cambria 
pinched out. At 7.10 o clock that night the 3rd Division was with 
drawn, when the 24th Division, 17th Corps, passed through it and 
joined up with the 2nd Canadian Division, which had continued on, 
occupying Thun Levecque, Thun St. Martin, Blecourt, Cuvillers and 
Bantigny. The llth Division occupied Abancourt and had reached 
the outskirts of Paillencourt. 

On the 8th heavy reinforcements had been reported pouring into 
Cambria and the attack of the 9th expected stubborn opposition, but 
the night advance took the enemy completely by surprise and in some 
cases caught him just before retiring. Until daylight came, machine 
gun batteries could do no more than follow on the heels of the groping 



196 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

infantry and this they did either by pack mule or using full transport 
and advancing in jumps. 

Casualties were light, with, of course, the inevitable exception. 
"L" Battery of No. 3 Company, 2nd Battalion C.M.G.C., provided the 
exception when it was heavily shelled protecting the left flank of the 
4th C.I.B. When the order cancelling the plan for the 4th C.I.B. to 
attack on the 9th came through, but before the machine gunners 
could get under way, they suffered 18 casualties and had three guns 
put out of action. Pte. A. Toroux particularly distinguished himself 
in this affair, returning time after time after wounded through 
Escaudoeuvres and then finally making one last trip into the gas- 
filled village without his gas mask, only to collapse when he had 
brought this severely wounded case back to shelter. 

The 2nd Canadian Division resumed the attack on the 10th in 
conjunction with the 24th Imperial Division, the 4th C.I.B. carrying 
forward the advance with the 5th and 6th C.I.B s in reserve. No. 3 
Company went over with the attacking brigade. In the early phases 
of the attack, launched at 6 a.m., "K" Battery covered the gap be 
tween the Canadian and Imperial Division. "M" Battery was able to 
bring effective fire to bear on the dump southwest of Iwuy, from 
where strong enemy opposition was causing heavy losses to the 6th 
C.I.B s advance in support. 

At 1.30 p.m. "J" and "M" Batteries supported the battalions 
attacking east from the Erclin River. This attack was held up, the 
enemy positions being too strongly held. No. 2 Company assisted 
the 6th C.I.B s flank attack toward Iwuy, sending "F" Battery for 
ward. When the infantry were held up in front of Thun St. Martin, 
No. 2 Section engaged the machine gun nests which were causing 
the damage. The enemy retired in the direction of Iwuy, the garrison 
of which was still holding out though nearly surrounded, since the 
left flank of the Division rested on Canal d Escaut, 1,500 yards north 
east of Iwuy. 

Orders were received for the continuation of the 2nd Division 
attack. Its left flank was clear, thanks to the splendid advance of 
the llth Division, which had cleared the whole ground between the 
Canal de la Sensee and the Canal de 1 Escaut. 

Again the 4th C.I.B. was on the right with the 6th C.I.B. attack 
ing on the left as the attack pushed off at 9 o clock on the morning of 
the llth. The objective on the right was Noyelles and to make good 
the crossing over the River Selle in that area. The 6th C.I.B. was to 
attack Iwuy and then advance on Hordain and Lieu-St. Amand, both 
inclusive. No. 3 Company was again attacking with the 4th C.I.B. 



CANAL DU NORD AND CAMBRIA 197 

and No. 2 Company of the 2nd Battalion C.M.G.C. supported the 6th 
C.I.B. advance. 

As the attack was launched the enemy barrage came down across 
the whole front, being particularly severe in the vicinity of Thun St. 
Martin. The enemy machine gun fire also was intense. This lasted 
for less than half an hour, when his fire slackened and he was reported 
to be in retirement east from Iwuy. At 11 a.m. the enemy counter 
attacked in strength with infantry, supported by seven tanks. The 
49th British Division was driven back almost to its jumping-off spot 
and the 4th C.I.B. gave way slightly, at the same time throwing out 
a defensive flank, and assisted the British Division to reorganize its 
attack. 

"Thanks to the good work done by a battery of the 2nd Battalion 
C.M.G.C., which engaged the enemy tanks with three guns and the 
accompanying infantry with four guns at a range rather less than 
600 yards, the surviving tanks finally retired to the northwest slopes 
of the ridge, behind which they took up a defensive position and 
allowed their infantry to reform," said the 2nd Division battle narra 
tive. This referred to "L" Battery (Garneau), the report of which 
stated that "the enemy infantry quickly broke and fled and that the 
remaining tank fired a few shells and a few bursts from its machine 
guns and then turned and followed its own infantry to cover." The 
battery escaped with two men killed. 

Shortly after noon the Village of Iwuy was finally cleared and at 
3.30 p.m. the 4th C.I.B., though suffering many casualties, made good 
the crest of the spur. 

The 1st Division had carried out a "Chinese" attack on the 8th 
after relieving the 4th (British) Division on the night of October 7th- 
8th, during which No. 1 Company 1st Battalion C.M.G.C. had fired 
32,000 rounds. Still holding this front from Pailluel to Biache-St. 
Vaast and separated from the enemy by the flooded valley of the 
Trinquis and Sensee Rivers, this Division on the 10th pushed out 
patrols which resulted in the 13th Battalion penetrating the Drocourt- 
Queant line and taking Sailly. The 15th Battalion, in endeavoring to 
effect a crossing on the tow path at Biache-St. Vaast, encountered 
heavy machine gun fire and withdrew. One party of the 13th Bat 
talion had been cut off and overrun by the enemy, two officers and 
50 other ranks being taken prisoner. 

On October llth the 1st Division at 9 a.m. heard from the 8th 
(British) Division, which had started an attack to the north, that the 
enemy was in full retreat and ordered its brigades to advance. The 
2nd C.I.B. sent the 7th Battalion forward, but heavy machine gun 
fire met this unit s bold attempt to cross the river on the Lecluse- 



198 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

Tortequesme road. This rearguard was soon silenced by our artillery 
and the advance continued, culminating on the 12th with the occupa 
tion of Arleux. 

No. 2 Company supported this advance. 

The hard-fighting 2nd Division was partly relieved by the 51st 
Highland Division on the night of October llth-12th and thus was 
brought to a close the Battle of Arras-Cambria, which from August 
26th to October llth had seen the Canadian Corps win new and 
imperishable honors for itself. 

"Since August 26th," summed up Sir Arthur Currie in his terse 
report, "the Canadian Corps had advanced 23 miles, fighting for every 
foot of ground and overcoming the most bitter resistance. In that 
period the Canadian Corps decisively defeated 31 German divisions, 
reinforced by numerous Marksmen Machine Gun Companies. These 
divisions were met in fortified positions and under conditions most 
favorable for defence. In this battle 18,585 prisoners, including 450 
officers, were captured by us, together with 371 guns, 1,923 machine 
guns and many trench mortars. One hundred and sixteen square 
miles of French soil, containing 54 towns and villages and including 
the large city of Cambria, were liberated. The severity of the fight 
ing and the heroism of our troops may be gathered from the casualties 
suffered between August 22nd and October llth and which are as 
follows : 

Officers Other Ranks 
Killed 296 4,071 

Missing 18 1,912 

Wounded 1,230 23,279 



Total 1,544 29,262 

During this period casualties to machine gunners had been 
particularly heavy. 

The following table shows the casualty totals of the four bat 
talions of the C.M.G.C. from August 26th to October llth, inclusive 

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 

Battalion Battalion Battalion Battalion 

Officers killed 5325 

Other Ranks killed 59 58 98 52 

Officers wounded 22 12 8 17 

Other Ranks wounded 449 389 254 351 

Officers missing 1 

Other Ranks missing 5 12 5 



Totals 541 474 367 425 



CANAL DU NORD AND CAMBRIA 199 

A more detailed summary shows that the heaviest losses sus 
tained for any one period was the attack on the Canal du Nord 
between September 1st and 30th. The 4th Battalion C.M.G.C. suffered 
the heaviest, with five officers killed and 17 wounded and 45 other 
ranks killed and 319 wounded. The 1st Battalion C.M.G.C. in this 
period had two officers killed and 16 wounded, while 17 other ranks 
were killed and 230 wounded. 

That stretch of time from August 26th to October llth had 
brought every known test of warfare to the Canadian Corps and it 
had met them all. In retrospect, a fighting advance of 23 miles when 
compared to the short time before, when battles were computed in 
hundreds of yards, seemed an incredible accomplishment. 

To the Canadian Machine Gun Corps this long advance had 
brought varying conditions of warfare with which the machine gun 
ners had grappled with ready adaptability. 

With memories still fresh of September 28th, when the German 
defence of Cambria itself depended almost entirely upon a frame 
work of Special Marksmen Machine Gun Companies, there seemed 
to be the prospect still of plenty of hard fighting to be done as the 
Canadian Corps prepared to take a brief breathing space. 





TO MONS AND APRES LE GUERRE 
CHAPTER X. 

an enemy withdrawal on a large scale was the expecta 
tion held forth on October 12th, there was no telling what the 
Germans were up to. Patrols were pushed boldly out by night by 
the four Divisions in the line --the 2nd (Canadian), the llth 
(Imperial), the 56th (Imperial) and the 1st Division on the left, hold 
ing the Corps frontage from Pailleul to the left Corps boundary just 
two miles south of Douai, the clock tower of which city Canadians 
had watched for many months from the opposite ridge of Vimy. 

On the night of October 12th-13th the llth (British) Division 
was relieved as the 2nd Division side-slipped. The 4th Division was 
ordered to relieve the 56th (British) by the night of October 16th. 
During the early morning of the 13th the 56th Division crossed the 
canal and succeeded in establishing a bridge-head at Aubigny-au-Bac 
and capturing the village with 201 prisoners. At 10 p.m. the follow 
ing night, however, an enemy counter-attack forced the withdrawal 
of the Imperials. During the early morning of the next day patrols 
of the 1st Division succeeded in crossing the canal near Ferin. They 
met with strong resistance and withdrew, but not without a quota 
of prisoners and also several machine guns. On the night of October 
14th-15th the 4th Division relieved the 56th. 

It was not until the 17th that the morning test barrages, which 
were routine, found the enemy uncannily quiet. 1st Division patrols 
started the big advance of all Divisions and, though it was met by 
determined machine gun fire in spots, kept sweeping forward until 
by 6 o clock next morning all the infantry of the 1st and 4th Divisions 
were across the Canal de la Sensee and several battalions of the 2nd 
Division were on the other side. 

"During that day," says Gen. Sir Arthur Currie s report, "two 
armoured cars and one company of Canadian Corps Cyclists were 
attached to each of the 1st and 4th Divisions to assist in the pursuit. 
These troops rendered valuable service to the Divisions to which they 
were attached, although the enemy s very complete road destruction 
prevented the armoured cars from operating to their full extent." 

As this great surge forward was taking place, few in the ranks 
realized that they were on their way to a historic rendezvous a 



TO MONS AND APRES LE GUERRE 



201 




Composite Battery, 1st Battalion C. M. G. C., at Leige review by the 
Belgian Chief of Staff. 1919. 

rendezvous that had been pledged by the Contemptibles over four 
years before and which their overseas cousins were to make good. 

There was little to be taken from the attitude of the enemy but 
that he was taking his own time to get to some line of his own choos 
ing for probably a winter stand. 

For a time on October 20th the 4th Division was held up just east 
of Denain by machine gun and artillery fire and it wasn t until late 
in the afternoon that our troops could make headway there. 

Village after village was relieved and, although the retiring 
Germans knew they contained civilians, they were often viciously 
and accurately shelled. 

The 1st Division, which had now been in the line for two weeks 
without any opportunity to rest and re-fit since crossing of the Canal 
du Nord, was relieved on October 22nd but on the move for at dawn 
it had continued the pursuit, later to be leap-frogged by the 3rd 
Division. 

By this date, opposition had begun to get stiffer. A large area 
northeast of Valenciennes had been flooded and to the west of the 
city the Canal de 1 Escaut had been flooded. To the southwest, beyond 
the flooded area, the Mont Huoy and the Famars ridge made a natural 
defence. 

The Canadian Corps report also indicates that the 22nd Corps 
on the right had been held up along the Ecaillon River and the 7th 
Corps on the left had not been able to make any great advance, not 



202 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

so much because of opposition as because of their own difficulties of 
supply. 

The Divisions continued to push forward and by the 25th had 
reached the canal and western edge of the flooded area along the 
whole Corps front. 

"Our troops," reports Gen. Currie, "had had a very arduous 
pursuit and the rail-head for supplies and ammunition was still very 
far to the rear. It was therefore decided that we should make good 
the west bank of the canal and stand fast until flanking Corps had 
made progress. 

"Attempts to cross the canal proved that the enemy was holding 
in strength a naturally strong position and it was ordered that no 
crossing in force should be attempted without reference to head 
quarters." 

It was realized that unless the enemy withdrew Valenciennes 
could only be taken from the south. The 17th Corps on the right had 
meanwhile succeeded in crossing the Ecaillon River after a hard fight 
and captured the Famars Ridge. They had, however, been unable to 
take Mont Huoy, which dominated the city from the south. 

The 1st Army commander planned large-scale attacks in con 
junction with the 3rd and 4th Armies, wherein the Canadian Corps 
entered the picture at phase B that being the capture of high ground 
overlooking Valenciennes from the south, the date probably being 
October 30th. 

The 51st Division attacked Mont Huoy as a preliminary on Octo 
ber 28th, but it was not a success. After first gaining a foothold, 
the Highlanders were driven out by repeated counter-attacks. 

Later orders were received that the Canadian Corps was to carry 
out all three of the planned phases of attack in conjunction with the 
22nd Corps and, though the time was short and the difficulties of 
supply very great, the thrust was elaborately planned. Heavy artillery 
fire was necessarily limited because of the knowledge that the Ger 
mans had detained many civilians in the city and surrounding 
villages. 

The time for the assault was fixed at 5.15 a.m. on November 1st. 
According to the plan, the right brigade of the 4th Division (10th 
C.I.B.) southeast of the canal was to carry out the attack at zero hour 
under a co-ordinated barrage in a northerly direction and capture 
Mont Huoy, Aulnoy and the high ground south of Valenciennes and 
then to exploit the success by pushing on to the high ground east 
of the city. Subsequently the troops northwest of the canal, which 
meant the left brigade of the 4th Division and the 3rd Division, were 
to force crossings north of the city and encircle it from that side. 



TO MONS AND APRES LE GUERRE 203 

No. 1 Company, 4th Battalion C.M.G.C., was detailed to accom 
pany the infantry attack of the 10th C.I.B. 

An enfilade machine gun barrage was co-ordinated with the 
artillery barrage by Lieut.-Col. A. M. Scott, D.S.O., commanding the 
4th Battalion C.M.G.C., in which nine batteries were to be used, includ 
ing the 1st Motors Brigade. Some of the batteries of the 4th 
Battalion C.M.G.C. were so placed that they expected to see the 
effects of the barrage fire if conditions of visibility permitted. 

It had seemed a considerable time to the troops since they had 
heard the engulfing roar of an organized barrage, but the one that 
broke the chilly dawn at 5.15 on November 1st indicated that the 
Canadian artillery and machine gunners had not slowed down their 
tempo one whit. The German retaliation to our barrage was prompt 
and in spots severe, but the reply slackened off quickly after zero. 
Again the machine gunners of the enemy offered their usual stout 
resistance, but the enemy infantry gave themselves up in large num 
bers. The fighting was heaviest in among the houses along the 
Famars-Valenciennes road and in Aulnoy. 

During the advance of the 10th C.I.B., patrols of the 38th C.I.B. 
and those of the 72nd had little trouble effecting a crossing and by 
noon the greater part of both battalions was established on the east 
side of the canal north of the Valenciennes railway station. Batteries 
of No. 1 Company kept up with the attack but had no occasion to do 
any firing and selected positions in depth. The 49th Division (British) 
on the right had been unable to reach the Blue Line phase and in 
order to increase the machine gun defences of the 10th C.I.B., "E" 
and "G" Batteries were placed in front of Mont Huoy along the 
Aulnoy-Poirer Station road in the course of the morning. 

"L" Battery of No. 3 Company sent three guns forward with the 
72nd Battalion and with the remaining five guns fired a 20-minute 
barrage for the crossing of the battalion, expending 15,000 rounds. 

The llth C.I.B. relieved the 10th C.I.B. on the right portion of 
their front in the evening of November 1st and by 10 p.m. their 
patrols were through Marlay. The advance was continued at 5.30 
a.m. November 2 in an easterly direction and a line was reached by 
evening 1,500 yards east of Valenciennes. 12th C.I.B. patrols pushed 
into Valenciennes during the night of November lst-2nd and at 9.50 
a.m. November 2nd the 38th and 72nd Battalions joined hands on 
the eastern outskirts of the city. The Germans were driven out of 
St. Saulve in the afternoon by the 72nd Battalion and the 12th C.I.B. 
line was linked up with the llth C.I.B. on the right and the 8th C.I.B. 
Division on the left. The 10th C.I.B. was pinched out by the advance 
of the llth and 12th C.I.B s and placed in reserve. Two batteries of 



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TO MONS AND APRES LE GUERRE 205 

No. 2 Company advanced with the 54th and 102nd Battalions and No. 
3 Company moved forward across the canal through Valenciennes and 
took up defensive positions in the evening- on the outskirts of the city. 

The completeness and thoroughness with which the operation 
was carried out was evidenced in the large number of killed and 
wounded Germans, which exceeded 2,100. This total was actually 
greater than the number of assaulting troops. There was abundant 
evidence of the effectiveness of our machine gun barrage. 

Machine gun casualties were small. No. 1 Company had two 
officers and 21 other ranks wounded and two guns put out of action. 
No. 3 Company suffered no casualties in the attack. 

However, the 1st Brigade Motors, who fired in the barrage, did 
suffer heavily but not from gun fire. They had one officer and 45 
other ranks put out of action by cordite fumes from their own guns 
which had been placed for the barrage in houses, the confined spaces 
not permitting the gas to escape before the personnel were overcome. 
As a result the brigade had to be reorganized into four batteries 
instead of its normal five thanks to a lesson which came rather late 
in the war. 

Infantry battalion commanders commented generally on the 
hearty and quick co-operation of the machine guns in this operation. 
On November 2nd Lieut.-Col. M. A. Scott, D.S.O., received the follow 
ing letter of appreciation from Brig.-Gen. J. M. Ross, D.S.O., 
commanding the 10th C.I.B.: 

"Just a line to express the appreciation "of the 10th Brigade for 
the magnificent work done by your people who were working with us 
in yesterday s operation. 

"All my battalions have expressed their satisfaction and I wish 
you would let those under your command, who were acting with us 
yesterday, know how we feel about it." 

On November 3rd the advance continues, but resistance, if 
patchy, is still strong and the German machine gunners continue to 
fight a stubborn rearguard action. Progress is slow on the left, where 
the 3rd Division finds itself confronted by areas that are entirely 
flooded, except where railway embankments or slag heaps rear them 
selves above the ordinary level and afford good cover for the German 
rearguards. The llth C.I.B. makes the farthest advance of the 4th 
Division, the line being advanced 3,000 yards and Estreux captured. 

On November 4th the 4th Division inches forward about two 
miles and the 3rd Division swishes through its flooded front to make 
good the Vicq-Thiers railway. 

Progress on November 5th was slow, but it was historic, for 
when patrols of the 4th Division, despite stubborn resistance, pushed 



206 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

across the Aunelle River it marked the first recovery of occupied 
Belgian territory by Canadian troops. 

The advance was resumed on the 6th and the 4th Division 
crossed into Belgium along the whole Divisional front, capturing the 
villages of Marchipont, Baisieux and the southern portion of Quievre- 
chain. The 3rd Division pushed on, capturing the railway station 
and the glass works of Quievrechain and the northern part of the 
village and also captured Crespin, farther north. 

This day had brought the enemy s first counter-attack on the 
front of the 22nd Corps, elements of which were forced to withdraw 
to the west bank of the Honelle River at Angre. 

The 2nd Battalion C.M.G.C. relieved the 4th Battalion C.M.G.C. 
on the night of the 6th-7th and the latter unit was withdrawn on 
November 7th to billets in St. Waast-la-Haut, where it was fated to 
wait out momentous events. 

On the right, the advance was now thrust into the heart of the 
Belgian coal district, where teeming villages, sprawled cheek by jowl 
over the flat, sodden landscape in which huge slag heaps rose to offer 
natural obstacles. 

On the 7th the attack was resumed and good progress was made 
through the soggy going. On the right, the 2nd Division cleared the 
remainder of Baisieux, captured the sugar refinery northeast of the 
town, the Town of Elouges and the scattered settlements surrounding 
it. The two Divisions combined to take Quievrain and in addition, 
on the left, the 3rd pushed along the Mons road for 4,000 yards, 
capturing La Croix and Hensies, north of the road. 

The 8th Corps, on the left, had not yet been able to negotiate the 
Canal de 1 Escaut and since the left flank was constantly lengthening 
the 3rd Division was ordered to attack toward the north when the 
advance was resumed on the 8th. By noon the villages of Thievencelle 
and St. Aybert were captured and later a footbridge was constructed 
across the Conde-Mons Canal. Under cover of darkness, patrols 
crossed and a bridgehead was established. On the right, the 3rd 
Division pushed as far as the western outskirts of Boussu. 

Strong opposition met the 2nd Division but by midnight of these 
longish days of probing into the unknown ahead the Division had 
captured the important village of Dour and the smaller villages of 
Bois-de-Boussu, Petit Hornu, Bois-de-Epinois and a portion of the 
Bois-de-Leveque were cleared. 

Signs of increasing demoralization among the enemy troops 
were noted in these days filled with intermittent fighting that was 
wearing on the nerves of all and imposed a constant strain. 

On the 9th a general advance of four miles, and at several points 



TO MONS AND APRES LE GUERRE 207 

of six, carried the 2nd Division clear of the mining area. Numerous 
towns were cleared, of which Wasmes-Paturages combined boasted a 
population of 30,000. 

The pressure of the Canadians was relentless. Before dawn of 
the 9th had broken the 3rd Division had crossed the River Haine and 
later secured a hold on the north bank of the Conde-Mons Canal near 
Le Petit Crepin. During the afternoon more troops were sent across 
the canal and the villages of Petit Crepin, Ville Pommeroeuil, Haut- 
rage and Terte were captured. 

Also before daylight on the 9th the 3rd Division on its right had 
pushed into Boussu. 

"H" Battery, supporting the Princess Pats on the 7th C.I.B. right, 
pushed four guns well forward, two on each side of Jemappes. An 
enemy machine gun nest was silenced by these guns and two prisoners 
taken. 

On November 10th No. 3 Company of the 2nd Battalion C.M.G.C. 
continued the advance with the 4th C.I.B. Considerable machine gun 
fire came from Nouvelles on our immediate right flank. "J" Battery 
kept the area under fire while the 18th Battalion worked around the 
position. 

Here the battery lost Lieut. H. A. Scott, who was killed by a 
shell as he was directing the fire of his guns. 

Lieut. Scott was to be the last officer casualty in the 2nd Battalion 
C.M.G.C. 

Actually, the batteries advancing with the thrusting brigades 
had had few chances to take part in the fighting. The fighting for 
Valenciennes and Mont Huoy on November lst-2nd had given the 
advancing batteries of the 4th Battalion C.M.G.C. a chance to do an 
organized barrage shoot, but in the daily advances between October 
llth and up until now the role of the forward batteries was largely 
to consolidate as the infantry pressed slowly on, mopping up as they 
went. Following the infantry as closely as they did put a terrific 
strain on transport arrangements for M. G. Companies, since the 
roads were almost totally destroyed and were heavily mined and 
littered with booby traps. There was little opportunity for the fight 
ing transport echelons to use cross country routes owing to the 
restricted nature of the country into which the Canadian Corps was 
now pushing its way. 

Brutinel s Brigade, composed of a detachment of cavalry, corps 
cyclists and mounted mortars, had opportunities for some spectacular 
dashes into enemy territory and, in the long pursuit, harried the 
enemy constantly. 

On October 8th they had done some fine work along the Cambria- 



208 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

Salzoir road. When bridges were blown up, engineers repaired them 
under the protection of the armored cars, and prepared the way for a 
brilliant cavalry charge. 

The destruction of the roads hampered the cars, but they pushed 
through and from time to time had actual machine gun duels with 
crack German gunners, who had also been mounted on trucks to give 
them more mobility. 

On October 19th a quick dash by the armoured cars south of 
Douai prevented the Germans from springing mines on the main road 
of the Canadian advance. It is recorded that they charged a group 
of the enemy, mining the only bridge which led through the swamps 
near the Marais de Beauvages, and drove them off. They held the 
position four hours until the Canadians came up in force. 

On October 22nd a group from the 1st C.M.G.C., consisting of 
two armoured cars and two batteries, were attached that morning to 
the 9th C.I.B. with instructions to move forward and get in touch 
with the enemy. 

The detachment advanced beyond the infantry and proceeded into 
Raismes as far as the sharp bend in the St. Amand-Anien road. The 
intention was to exploit Chemin Notre Dame. But as the road was 
reported by a cyclist patrol to be in bad condition, attention was 
directed toward the Rue de Marais. The civilians in this neighbor 
hood stated that a party of Germans had once been placed in positions 
commanding all the exits from it, but on a search being made no 
enemy was found. The group then continued up the Rue de Marais 
as far as the railway crossing, where infantry screens came up and 
established a line of outposts. 

After a reconnaisance by motor cyclists, the detachment resumed 
its forward thrust with the bridge over the canal east of Denain- 
Anzin as the objective. The armoured cars led the way, followed 
closely by "E" Battery, with "C" Battery a little way behind. Denain- 
Anein is a suburb of Valenciennes and a tight cluster of metal fac 
tories and mines, with their accompanying mass of closely-clustered 
workmen s homes. Slag heaps in abundance, railway lines and sidings 
criss-crossing the villages, made work of this groping but the enemy 
apparently had decided not to take advantage of this, a set-up per 
fectly designed for house-to-house fighting. But if trouble didn t bob 
from around every corner in this area it was in the offing. 

The detachment went on down to the end of the Rue de Marais 
and then turned south along the road south of Marais de Beabrages 
as far as the "Y" of the roads south of Marais de Arnonville. From 
this point one road led to Valenciennes. "E" Battery and the cars 
were now 2,700 yards in front of the infantry and about 1,200 yards 



TO MONS AND APRES LE GUERRE 209 

from the canal bridge. They were being fired at from the right flank 
and one party of Germans was seen working on top of the bridge, 
another group underneath it, apparently laying some demolition 
dew-dads. 

One armoured car was sent to the right to locate and silence the 
enemy on that flank and the other moved towards the bridge but was 
unable to get very far owing to engine trouble. 

On observing our men the enemy increased the volume of his 
fire with two machine guns. One was firing from the bridge and his 
accurate bursts were sending up showers of dust off the rocky road. 
The other was firing from the railway embankment on the right. 

The armoured cars immediately retaliated with their four guns 
and took time off to send groups of the enemy scattering on the banks 
of the canal. 

Soon the German guns were temporarily silenced and one of the 
group on the top of the bridge was seen to tumble off into the canal, 
while the others clambered down to safety. 

The Motors during this duel lost Lieut. T. A. Smith, who in 
previous actions had done exceptionally fine work, and a gunner was 
wounded. 

It was thus the German rearguards took their toll as day by day 
the advance pressed forward. 

And now back to the 3rd and 2nd Divisions again, exerting their 
inexorable pressure on the harried Germans and giving them no 
breathing space in which to properly organize for sustained defence. 

During the night of November lOth-llth the two Divisions had 
resumed their advance. On the 3rd Division front the 7th C.I.B. 
began to close in on Mons. The villages of Nimy and Petit Nimy 
were quickly captured and before midnight this doughty brigade had 
effected an entry into Mons itself via the railway station. 

The famous Princess Pats, first Canadian unit to see service in 
France, therefore had the honor of being among the first Canadian 
troops to enter Mons, from which city the Old Contemptibles, under 
Sir John French, had begun their historic retreat in front of over 
whelming German forces. 

No. 2 Company of the 3rd Battalion C.M.G.C. sent two batteries 
over with the attacking battalions. These were "E" and "F" Bat 
teries. At 6 a.m. of November llth, when word was received by 
No. 1 Company that the 9th C.I.B. would relieve the 7th C.I.B. , "C" 
and "D" Batteries were detailed for the attack. 

Meanwhile the 2nd Division had during the night taken the Bois- 
le-Haut, a wood crowning a large hill on the southeastern outskirts 
of Mons, thus securing the right flank of the 3rd Division. Sir Arthur 



210 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

Currie s report says that the capture of this high ground forced upon 
the enemy a further retirement and our troops, still pressing on, 
reached and captured St. Symphorien and Fbg. Barthelmy by 8 a.m. 

"In the meantime," says the report of those momentous hours 
of November llth which was to bring, oftentimes, bitter debate, 
"word had been received through the 1st Army that hostilities would 
cease at 11 a.m. on November llth, the Armistice having been signed 
in acceptance of our terms." 

"To secure a satisfactory line for the defence of Mons," the report 
further says, "our line was further advanced and the Bois-du- 
Havre, Bois-du-Rapois and the town and villages of Havre, Bon 
Vouloir, La Bruyere, Masireres, St. Denis and Obourg were captured 
before hostilities ceased." 

Rumors had, as usual, reached the troops of the request for an 
armistice by the Germans, but for over four years the Rue de Rumor 
that ran its ubiquitous course over every front had run into blank 
walls of denial and flat contradiction. 

The Rue de Rumor in this particular area the past two days 
seemed to be always blocked by masonry that crumbled under the 
long-range fire of German shells which, if anything, seemed to be 
searching more intently than they had for weeks past for victims. 

Over on the 2nd Division front batteries of No. 2 Company, 2nd 
Battalion C.M.G.C., had covered the advance on November llth. Four 
guns of "F" Battery (Layton) covering the right flank of the 31st 
Battalion were the last of that Division s machine guns to rattle forth 
defiance to the enemy on that historic morning. This battery had 
reached, as the llth hour of the day approached, Petit Haver, east 
of Mons, and the left forward battery with the 28th Battalion was 
on the northeast outskirts of Haver, south of the Canal du Centre. 
The two batteries in reserve were located in the chemical works on 
the south edge of the Bois de Haver. 

And then the "Cease Fire" sounded. 

Strange, uncanny lulls had come in over four years of warfare 
of intensity such as human nature had never before been subjected 
to. They were always unreal after days and hours on end of ear- 
splitting pounding to which life perforce on the Western Front had 
had to attune itself. 

But this lull at 11 o clock of November llth? 

It seemed ghostly, suddenly peopled, mayhap, to the more 
imaginative, with those millions of the dead, whose requiem had been 
sung for so many weary years by the screech and whine of shells, 
the drone of planes and the c-r-rump of high explosive and destruction. 

Yesterday German shells screeching over in a spiteful search 



TO MONS AND APRES LE GUERRE 211 

for victims, and still forms under blankets being stretchered back to 
the rear. Yesterday grimy, mud-caked but exultant "blighties" 
passing those who, with a look of accumulated strain, were trudging 
eastward. Yesterday all around the debris of war the shattered 
skeleton of a limber dead horses huge gouges in the pave road- 
slashed off trees and poles as gaunt remnants of what a tornado of 
whistling iron had left here and there the body of a civilian in an 
ironic, unlovely sprawl one who had caught a glimpse of freedom 
only to have it snatched away by grimacing death. 

Last night the November sun sinking into a red haze the 
evening vespers of war merged into the crashing bangs of high ex 
plosives our own at last but with night s more muffled tone and a 
broken tempo. Last night fitful flares piercing the blackness old 
Jerry s childish fear of the dark still persisting. 

And now today bleak dawn and war s unending frightfulness 
apparently ready to go on indefinitely, despite silly rumors of an 
armistice the old familiar staccato rattle of the emma gees the 
same damnable game with fate and the Bosche again and tea sicklier 
than usual because the rations were hours overdue and the troops 
hadn t caught up yet with the day before yesterday s breakfast. 
And now Peace! 

It was too much to grasp. Some wept. Some shouted. Others 
danced. Some prayed. But few were coherent. 

Farther back, mayhap, there was grim disapproval at being rob 
bed of that chance to carry war s lesson right to the heart of Germany 
itself, but up there, where the last grisly grip of battle had so sud 
denly been loosened, there was only an immensity of disbelief in the 
miracle an unvoiceable immensity of relief when the miracle was 
understood. 

Concluding his account of the operations which had brought 
about this miraculous denouement, Gen. Sir Arthur Currie said, in 
part: 

"Between October llth and November llth the Canadian Corps 
had advanced to a total depth exceeding 90,000 yards. . . . 

"... when it is recalled that since August 8th the Canadian 
Corps had fought battles of the first magnitude, having a direct bear 
ing on the general situation and contributing, to an extent difficult 
to realize, to the defeat of the German armies in the field, this advance 
under most difficult conditions constitutes a decisive test of the 
superior energy and power of endurance of our men. 

"It is befitting that the capture of Mons should close the fighting 
records of our troops in which every battle is a resplendent page of 
glory. 



212 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

"The Canadian Corps was deeply appreciative of the honour of 
having been selected amongst the first for the task of establishing 
and occupying the bridgeheads east of the Rhine. A long march of 
170 miles under difficult conditions was ahead of them, but they 
ungrudgingly looked forward to what had always been their ultimate 
objective the occupation of German soil. 

"Between August 8th and November llth the following had 
been captured: prisoners, 31,537; guns (heavy and field), 623; 
machine guns, 2,842 ; trench mortars (heavy and light) , 336. 

"Over 500 square miles of territory and 228 cities, towns and 
villages had been liberated, including the cities of Cambria, Denain, 
Valenciennes and Mons. . . . 

"In the performance of these mighty achievements all arms of 
the Corps have bent their purposeful energy, working one for all and 
all for one. The dash and magnificent bravery of our incomparable 
infantry have at all times been devotedly seconded with great skill 
and daring by our machine gunners, while the artillery lent them 
their powerful and never-failing support. The initiative and resource 
fulness displayed by the Engineers contributed materially to the depth 
and rapidity of our advances. The devotion of the medical personnel 
has been, as always, worthy of every praise. The administrative 
services, working at all times under very great pressure and adverse 
conditions, surpassed their usual efficiency. The chaplain services, 
by their continual devotion to the spiritual welfare of the troops and 
their utter disregard of personal risk, endeared themselves to the 
hearts of everyone. The incessant efforts of the Y.M.C.A. and their 
initiative in bringing comforts right up to the front line in battle 
were warmly appreciated by all." 

In the advance from the Canal de la Sensee the losses of the four 
machine gun battalions had been comparatively light. 

Two officers were killed and four wounded during the long ad 
vance, while 20 other ranks were killed and 250 wounded. The 4th 
Battalion C.M.G.C. suffered the heaviest, having four officers killed 
and wounded and 222 other ranks killed and wounded. 

On November 18th commenced the long trek to the Rhine, the 
2nd Canadian Division advancing on the right and the 1st Division 
on the left. The heads of the columns passed the outpost line at 9 
a.m. that day. Each column found its own protection, cavalry screens 
and cyclists being used. 

The 3rd and 4th Divisions were to remain in Belgium for the 
rest of the year. 

As the advancing columns drew farther away from railhead, 
which was still west of Valenciennes, and the roads became poorer 



TO MONS AND APRES LE GUERRE 213 

and villages more sparse, the march to the Rhine was beset with more 
and more difficulties. Added to the scarcity of billets was either rain, 
which fell intermittently, or fog and a ground haze which was as 
uncomfortable as rain. 

Post-war literature, historical and fiction, has fully pictured the 
change in outlook on the part of Canadians as they penetrated farther 
into Belgium. 

The better class of Belgians, both farmers and those of the 
larger towns, were hospitable to a warming degree, but the attitude 
of the poorer peasants proved baffling to the Canadians, who had been 
under the impression that at least some of the sacrifices of the past 
four years had been made on their behalf. Often they were bold 
enough to say that they preferred the German occupation to victory 
they were avaricious, untrustworthy and sullen. 

But these were minor considerations in the larger expanse of 
things and the still almost unbelievable fact that the bally old war 
was really over. 

As the difficulty of maintaining the lengthening line of supply 
grew more pronounced, troubles resolved themselves into the very 
primitive one of food for all ranks. 

The breakdown in supply reached a climax on November 28th, 
when the rations for the day before were received just as the day s 
march was commencing. On the 29th the same situation recurred and 
the march on that day was cancelled. 

Grousing, ever the soldier s privilege and now undisturbed by 
war s alarms, was given full reign by the troops and was hardly 
lightened by new scenery, new sights, or the coming thrill of entering 
upon German soil. The staff s passion for polishing, too, had re 
asserted itself and altogether, as historians reviewed the trek, it was 
not a matter of day after day of unalloyed joy. But men who could 
find humor in the midst of death found amusing aspects to the days 
of steady slogging through a country which showed no signs of war 
except as from time to time a grim reminder came in the shape of an 
abandoned German truck and pieces of equipment. 

On December 4th the heads of the two Canadian Divisions crossed 
the German border. The 1st Division crossed at Petit Thier and the 
2nd at Beho. They marched over with flags flying and bands playing. 
Rations were often skimpy as the march through Germany proceeded 



214 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

over roads that were almost impassable at times, but merely to be 
on German soil was an uplift of the spirit. 

The German inhabitants were docile and, in the country, seemed 
to have ample food. 

Approaching the Rhine, the countryside became more beautiful 
though sombre in the melancholy of autumn and of a nation that had 
awakened to the knowledge of defeat after a four-year spree of war. 

On December 13th the formal occupation of the bridgeheads of 
the Rhine was marked by the crossing of the 2nd Division at Bonn, 
where Gen. Currie took the salute, and of the 1st Division at Cologne, 
where Gen. Plumer, G.O.C. 2nd Army, was at the saluting point. 

In Germany and in Belgium then, Canadians were spending still 
another Christmas. Of this time, Canadians will cherish memories 
of many strange, many humorous experiences. Gradually, instead of 
hatred for the hated Hun, there crept in a feeling of pity for a people 
who could be so blindly led into war and seemed now the antithesis 
of arrogance and lust of conquest. It was a transformation in a 
supposedly proud people which Canadians, who had the experience of 
watching it, will always find utterly baffling. 

The New Year brought with it sobering thoughts of the future 
of a return to the prosaic ways of peace, of a return to vocations and 
to picking up the threads of an existence which seemed so far in the 
past. 

The Canadian Machine Gun Corps could review its growth in 
prestige and status with real gratification as the Emma Gees experi 
enced the common urge now to get back to the homeland. 

No single arm, with the exception of the Air Force, had earned 
greater recognition than the machine guns and, while always tipping 
a deferential salute to the infantry for their stark heroism, machine 
gunners had reason to feel that they belonged to a Corps d Elite. 

The remarkable growth of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps from 
the battalion sections in France in 1915 is shown in the following 
table : 

Officers Other Ranks Total 
June 21st, 1915 24 567 591 

March 31st, 1917 182 3,192 3,374 

November llth, 1918 422 8,349 8,771 

Over 16,000 served in the C.M.G.C., of whom 5,777 gave their 
lives in their country s service. 



TO MONS AND APRES LE GUERRE 215 

Infantry battalions, maintained in France, had been able in a 
large measure to keep their sectional identities and to a certain extent 
this was true also of artillery units. But when the Canadian overseas 
forces were ultimately demobilized none was as scattered as the 
machine gunners. 

From the Yukon to the Maritimes, the C.M.G.C. was a cross- 
section of all Canada, but the ways of peace and the penalty of great 
distances were to strengthen rather than wither the splendid spirit 
of the Corps. 

Recognition of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps hard-won spurs, 
it seemed, came on November 3rd, 1919, when authority was given 
for the establishment of a Canadian Machine Gun Brigade as a part 
of the reconstructed Canadian Permanent Force. 

Too, came the establishment of a Canadian Machine Gun Corps 
as a part of the Active Militia of Canada. It comprised 12 Machine 
Gun Battalions (at first styled brigades), two Motor Machine Gun 
Brigades and a Machine Gun Squadron. 

Of these units, of course, only the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th ; the 1st 
and 2nd Motors and the Machine Gun Squadron could perpetuate units 
which fought in France. 

In 1921 a general order set forth that "His Majesty the King 
has graciously approved the grant of the title Royal to the Canadian 
Permanent Machine Gun Brigade," then under the command of Lieut- 
Col. E. W. Sansom, D.S.O. 

Though the Permanent Brigade had done splendid work, especi 
ally valuable in the establishment of the new militia machine gun 
units, in 1924 came a policy of retrenchment which brought about the 
disbandment of the Royal Canadian Machine Gun Brigade as a 
separate organization. Many of the personnel of the brigade were 
absorbed into other permanent force units and some years later were 
to be found filling very important appointments on the General Staff 
in various capacities. 

For many years the machine gun units of the militia were to 
live under the fear of disbandment, especially since the Imperial 
authorities had seen fit to abolish the Machine Gun Corps. 

If machine gunners in the Canadian Militia became discouraged 
many times and generally felt that they were the subject of official 
neglect that was out of keeping with the acknowledged rise of their 
weapon to pre-eminence during the war, they could scarcely be blamed. 



216 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

But even if the "war orphan" feeling was prevalent, the Corps 
continued to carry on and generally earned a reputation for efficiency 
and keenness that was won against heavy odds, especially in the cities 
where units of other arms were perpetuating, not only units which 
had won battle honors in France, but had a lengthy tradition in the 
Canadian Militia behind them. 

The Canadian Machine Gun Corps Association was first formed 
in 1926 and it was to have a tremendous influence in maintaining for 
the Corps the prestige it had gained in France. 

Lieut.-Col. B. O. Hooper, D.S.O., M.C., was the association s first 
president. He was to carry on for three years. 

Presidents to follow Lieut.-Col. Hooper were as follows: 

Lieut.-Col. James Mess 
Lieut.-Col. G. W. H. Millican, M.C. 
Lieut.-Col. C. H. Colwell, E.D. 
Lieut.-Col. J. A. McCamus, M.C. 
Lieut.-Col. George Machum . 
Lieut.-Col. J. A. McCamus, M.C. 
Lieut.-Col. F. I. Carpenter, V.D. 

Throughout Major A. G. Fisher was the efficient Secretary- 
Treasurer. 

While the Association during its many splendid years of service 
did a great deal to increase the efficiency of the training of Militia 
Machine Gun units, it succeeded also in keeping the spirit of the old 
Corps alive and the "crossed guns" have always been an open sesame 
to a comradeship that, to machine gunners at least, seems more 
characteristic of their service than it is of any other arm. 

Perhaps it was the compactness and self-sufficiency of machine 
gun crews, so often finding themselves in isolated posts, that produced 
this splendid spirit, which survived the war and thrived through the 
piping days of peace to follow. 

The organization of central camps for machine gun training, 
modelled somewhat after the camps in which artillery training had 
always been pursued, had kong been an objective of the Association. 
In 1933 these camps were established for the first time across Canada. 

That point seemed to mark an upturn in the fortunes and the 
outlook of the Machine Gunners, and so it proved. 

When, in 1936, the Canadian Militia was reorganized on a six- 




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218 THE CANADIAN "EMMA GEES" 

division basis, the drastic changes brought about a greatly-enhanced 
status for machine gunnery. 

One hundred and thirty-five infantry regiments were whittled to 
91. Of these 59 remained as rifle battalions, six were turned into 

tank battalions and the machine gun strength rose to 26 battalions 

more than double the former strength. 

After so many years of seeming fighting for a mere existence 
in the active lists, the trend toward a mechanized army had returned 
the machine gunners to first rate importance again in the militia 
scheme. 

Tradition had taken off its epaulettes and donned overalls. 

And as machine gunners, because of the nature of their training, 
had had little opportunity for parade ground smartness and prob 
ably no over-weening desire to excel in this side of military training, 
the new order of things found them very much at home. 

As this is being written a new generation of machine gunners is 
all but dominating the scene. With each passing year this domination 
will become more sharply pronounced. 

To this new generation, it may be justly claimed, the old has 
handed on a tradition of enthusiasm for its arm, heroism and self- 
sacrifice in battle and further decades of service to the country in 
peace that is not surpassed by any other arm of the service. 




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